Ten Ways to Practice Lagom for Teachers

Ten Ways to Practice Lagom for Teachers

Hey, y'all. I'm sure you've seen the word hygge before (I may have written a post or two about it ;) ), but do you know Lagom? It's a Swedish word meaning "not too little, not too much." In the teacher world, we call that balance, but I like the term lagom better.

It's not just about balance. It's about using what you can and getting rid of the rest. It's about the necessities. It's about...peace.

How can teachers practice lagom?

1. Clean out your supply closet
I know you might NEED that foam board for that one project one day. But if you haven't used it in a few years, it's time to make like Frozen and let it go! Keep what you use all the time and purge the rest. The free space will feel invigorating! (But that doesn't mean you need to go shopping and fill it back up again!)

2. Organize your desk/teacher area
I KNOW there are things you can purge there. I have so much junk I hold onto just in case and I know you do, too. Cleaning this area and taming the clutter will free your mind to focus on other things. Studies have shown that people struggle to focus when there is a lot of clutter. Get rid of it.

3. When it comes to your walls, be a minimalist
The clutter on walls can distract your students, making your job even tougher (we don't need that). Before you hang it on your walls, decide if it really needs to be there or if there are better ways to display things. When it comes to student work, I display it in specific places in the classroom so it doesn't overwhelm my students and myself. I keep posters to a minimum and I'm selective about what I hang up. I keep pictures the students give me in a binder with page protectors and store it in the classroom library. Follow the KISS method: keep it simple silly.

4. Leave on time
This can be a tough one. I tend to arrive early and get myself mentally prepared for the day, and I almost always leave right after the kids. When I had to stay until a certain time after school, I did whatever prep work needed to be done for the next day while I waited for that magic number on the clock and walked out when it was time. I know this can be challenging for many of us, but leaving on time helps you create boundaries for your work/home life--boundaries you need to have!

5. Be cautious about taking work home
I lesson plan better at home. It's just quieter there with fewer interruptions. I used to bring work home all the time because I wasn't maximizing my prep times. Now, I only bring home papers to grade in a pinch and I only bring home TEs when absolutely necessary. Deciding to leave work at work has helped be exponentially in setting boundaries for work and making sure my family gets what they need from me when I'm at home.

6. Maximize your prep times
I know meetings can fill up these times pretty quickly. Last week, I had a meeting almost everyday during planning time. Fortunately, weeks like this don't happen very often. When you use your prep time for its intended purpose--preparing, grading, planning rather than talking with colleagues--you will have less work to bring home or reasons to stay late.

7. Take a break
Eat your lunch without working at the same time. Take a coffee break if you can. Take a walk around the playground during recess duty and get a breath of fresh air. Clear your mind. In doing so, you'll be able to lower your stress levels and enjoy your students and teaching more. You'll also be able to work more productively when you allow yourself some downtime. No one is a machine. We all need breaks throughout the day.

8. Do something not school-related
As teachers, we tend to live and breathe school. We attend events, we work like no other profession, we think about the kids and school until the moment we fall asleep. When we do things not school-related, like gardening, working out, traveling, Netflixing, etc., we gain balance in our lives and allow ourselves to regroup and recharge.

9. Learn to say "no"
Sometimes we feel pressured to say "yes" to everything we're asked to do. As teachers, many of us are overachievers and people pleasers. But when we try to please everyone else, we often are the ones left unhappy. Saying "no" to the things that would overwhelm us or completely fill up our plate not only helps us set boundaries, it also helps us be selective in the tasks we chose to do. Some administrators don't like to hear the word "no," but most will be appreciative of the strength it takes to  make those choices.

10. Practice self-care
Self-care in its very nature is lagom. It's not spending too much time on one thing in order to take care of you. I mean, it's really hard to get your nails done or go to a yoga class while you're grading papers. When you practice self-care, you allow your mind to take a break. Even if it wanders to a certain student or that one lesson, your mind will be more relaxed and able to think more clearly about the problem or task.

If you're wanting to know more about Lagom in all areas of your life, I recommend reading this book. Lagom, hygge, lykke, and (my favorite) fika (affiliate links) are all Scandinavian words that focus on slowing down, enjoying the little things, and appreciating the here and now. Being an American, I totally appreciate these ideas and desperately needed to read these books when I did. Pinterest has a ton of ideas as well, but I highly recommend reading the books for a better understanding.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found some tools you can use in your everyday life. If your stress levels are through the roof like mine were, actively trying to incorporate these ideas into your life will be a game changer. I hope you have a wonderful week and stay tuned for more ideas coming soon.

Stay sweet,

Why Teachers Leave Teaching and What We Can Do About It

Why Teachers Leave Teaching and What We Can Do About It

It's not the kids.

Let me say that again. It's not the kids.

Teachers go into teaching for the kids. We go in wanting to make a difference. We go in wanting to make sure students know that they are loved and cared for. We want to teach a love for learning. We want to give something of value to a younger generation.

But we're not valued.

Of course non-teachers say things like, "I don't know how you do it." And, "I couldn't do what you do all day. You're amazing."

But at the same time, we're expected to work miracles while getting paid peanuts.

And in the end, it's not really about the money either.

Sure, we want to be paid fairly. We protest and write letters. We advocate for proper funding for our schools and ourselves. (We do work well over 40 hours a week and we don't really have a summer break like the kids do, you know.)

But pay isn't really why we leave.

We leave because we are treated like children.

Teachers are competent professionals. Many of us have more than one degree. We came into this profession with passion and heart only to have it squashed out of us at every turn.

You wore your badge today? Here's a sticker. You've earned a free highlighter. Your class raised the most money for the latest cause? Great, now you get slimed in front of the whole school but you also get to wear jeans so it's okay. Haven't paid your dues to the Sunshine Committee? Let's make sure you do by including your name in a campus-wide email about who still needs to pay.

New mandate requiring an additional five hours of work a week? The teachers can handle it. Need to have a meeting? Teachers can do it during prep time. New curriculum program? Teachers can just learn as they go. No need for ongoing support. Professional development? Here's some training someone in the district office who doesn't know you or your students thinks you should have. And of course it's not differentiated. You differentiate for your students but we don't need to differentiate for you.

Behavior problems in class? You must not be doing enough for your students. Children in crisis? You can be their counselor and their teacher. Too much on your plate? Get a bigger plate. (An administrator actually said this to their staff, I kid you not.)

Teachers teach in isolation. Higher ups talk about collaboration and PLCs, but in practice that looks like a meeting lead by an admin with little to no actual learning or collaborating going on. Want to go watch another teacher teach so you can grow in you practice? Sorry, we don't have time for that. Want to go to a professional conference of your own choosing? Fine, but you'll have to use one of your personal days, and quite possibly pay for it out of your own pocket.

Test scores are used as a defining measure of teacher effectiveness. Some of these tests don't even assess the students on standards we're required to teach. But if a kid finishes a 40 question reading comprehension test in ten minutes, or is stripped from their family the night before testing and placed in foster care, or mommy gets sent to jail over the weekend, it must mean that I did not effectively teach that student. Forget the fact that the student didn't even READ the questions. But it doesn't matter. I still didn't do enough.

Teachers work well over the forty hours a week most professions work. We work on weekends and breaks. We pray for our students before going to bed each night and wonder how their holidays are going. We help them make gifts for their parents and teach them about generosity during the holidays.   We form relationships. We build children up. We show them how to access their potential. We teach them how to believe in themselves. We show them someone cares.

But if that test score doesn't make the cut, we are not enough.

And it's not teachers that tell each other we're not enough. Teachers build each other up too. We know we're all doing the best we can. We collaborate on our own time--in the lunch room, at each other's houses over break. When one of us has a bad a day, it's our teacher friends that help us put it all in prospective. It's our teacher friends that help us get through. It's our teacher friends that remind us we are doing all we can and that we are, in fact, enough. You are enough.

The outside pressure from "the higher ups" that make all the rules governing the things that happen inside our four walls are what is killing this profession. The lack of parental support is killing this profession. Most parents are doing the best they can--I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus here. But when half a class is going through a traumatic event all at the same time, teachers have no choice but focus on emotional and mental health before getting to the academic stuff. Teachers know the Maslow stuff has to happen for the Bloom's stuff. If you don't know what that means, then you shouldn't be writing policies about education.

So, how do we fix this mess?

We start by giving teachers the respect other professionals of the same degree status receive. We are smart, educated people and deserve to be treated as such.

We fully fund schools. I don't understand why this is so hard for law makers to understand. It seems like a no brainer.

We give teachers the tools and autonomy to do their job.

We provide schools with enough counselors to effectively support our students, and we provide parents the support they need to effectively parent their children. We make mental health a priority.

We feed the kids. If a student doesn't have lunch money, ripping away their tray and tossing a cold sandwich at them is not a solution. Children cannot learn if they are hungry (or embarrassed). We must make sure they are fed and feel safe here.

We remember they are children. Students need breaks. They need processing time. They need to be able to enjoy their childhood and their education.

We teach deeper, not wider. People now have the world at their fingertips. Students don't need to know a slew of random facts. Students need to know how to learn, how to problem-solve, and how to think for themselves.

We create systems that support our children before they ever walk into the classroom--systems that allow children to get basic healthcare and food, systems that help kids foster independence and reduce the effects of trauma, systems that build up students and get them ready to enter schools. If students are actually ready to learn and go to school, teachers could spend more time on teaching tasks and less on behavior management.

In short, we support our students, families, teachers, and schools. Is that really too much to ask?

How To Boost Your Productivity Without Losing Your Sanity

How to Boost Your Productivity Without Losing Your Sanity

Hey y'all! Ever feel like your plate is so full things are spilling off the sides? And not in the good Thanksgiving dinner kind of way? I know I feel this way more often that I care to admit. But there is hope! When I feel like I can't fit any more into my day, I remember these tips to help bring things back to equilibrium.

1. Make a plan
This is my favorite. I love planners and to do lists. When I get up in the morning, or before I go to bed the day before, I plan out my day. I list out everything that needs to be done and prioritize each task. Do I complete every task every time? Absolutely not. I'd go crazy. But it does help me decide where to focus my time.

2. Prioritize
When you decide what needs your attention the most, it's easier to make a plan of attack. If I know that I need to work on lesson plans, then that becomes my focus. If I know grades are due and I HAVE to tackle that pile of papers that need grading, I jump on that. If I know that I need a morning to myself so that I keep myself together, then that becomes my priority. When you prioritize your tasks, you are able to let some things take a back burner--not forever, just until those things need to be a priority.

3. Schedule your time
Set up your work time. Do you need to get things done before the kids get up or after they go to bed? Do you work better before your husband gets home from work? (I know I do.) Do you only really get things done at school and you just CAN'T bring work home? Whatever your answers, take a realistic assessment of your available time and plan accordingly. I have more work time at school on Thursdays and before school just about everyday (no recess duties then), so I do as much school work as I can on campus then. I know I lesson plan more effectively in the comfort of my own home, so I make sure that's where I plan. Your plan has to work with your schedule so be sure to take that into consideration.

4. Get down to business
Now, you've got your plan, you've prioritized your tasks, it's time to get down to business. Put your phone on silent or in another room. Get your list out and start knocking things out. Marking things off as you complete them helps you feel like you've accomplished something.

But you don't have to do it all. You can let things go. The world won't end if some of the things don't get done. There are perfectly wonderful lessons that don't require your entire weekend to prep. Your students will still learn the material with or without the cute craft. You can do the room transformation or not.

You do what you need to do.

If you need to forgo the over-the-top lesson for a more traditional one, then do it. If you need to practice self-care for the evening, do it.

At any one time, I probably have 3-4 working goals at a time--exercise, TpT, grad school research, and teaching goals are all in the works right now. Oh, and I have teenagers, a husband, and a dog who also need my time.

Yes, it's a lot. And yes, I work my tail off most days. But I also strive to find balance with all the things and taking care of myself. That's why making a plan and sticking to it helps me keep my sanity. Scheduling in downtime is essential, regardless of the length of your to-do list.

So take care of yourself and you'll find your productivity increases as well. You can't pour from an empty cup.

Have a wonderful week and happy planning. I'll talk to you soon.

Stay sweet,

Fun and Free Hands On Spelling Center

Fun and Free Hands-on Spelling Centers

Hey y'all! I know you've seen these before...those little Scrabble tiles for word work...Well I snagged some at Target's dollar spot the other day, and made a cute, simple little word work center for you.

You can use scrabble tiles you've pulled out of an old game, or you can pick up a set or four of these tiles at Bullseyes Playground.

This freebie comes with student visual directions and two options for students to work with. The first goes with spelling words, but could also be used with a vocabulary list or any other word list. Students could even make the lines in a short poem if desired. 

The second option is for students to make up their own words, as many as they can, and write them down. In both options, students make the words, write them on the paper, then add up the letters using the numbers at the bottom of the tiles. Then, they answer three short questions at the bottom of the paper.

Any time I can bring in hands on learning into the classroom, engagement instantly increases. I know your students will love this little freebie as much as mine do. You can grab a copy of your own here. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more great resources coming soon.

Have a great week and stay sweet,