I am taking a page from Josie (@maniacsinthemiddle) and doing a question and answer session because I have been slacking on my blog lately and want to do better. I am answering your questions from Instagram and also my most frequently asked questions below.
1. How long have you been teaching?
This is my fifth year teaching and my fourth year teaching 7th grade science in my classroom. I was originally certified to teach social studies and my dream subject was Advanced Placement US History. Despite my best efforts and what felt like 100 interviews, I did not get a position and ended up long-term subbing at the high school to my middle school. While I was there, I co-taught biology one class period each day, which made me realize how much I actually loved science. I added my science certification and was hired for the first science position I applied to. The rest is history.
2. When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
I always admired my teachers and principals and knew that one day I wanted to be that person in the lives of students. When I went away to college, I had that in the back of my mind but ended up pursuing a business degree instead. I worked for my parent’s business for a few years doing mainly accounting and human resources. This job was a great experience and I value my business degree, but I knew I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. I saved up and went back to school to get my Master’s in Education and became a second career teacher. I always tell my students to never buy into the idea that you have to know what you want to be. Your dreams can change. You can always start over. You can rewrite your life story at any age.
3. How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I get to school early. Some people stay late, but I find that I am most productive when noone is at school and I have made myself become a morning person–something I never would have thought possible before teaching. Getting to school early keeps me from staying after school or coming in on the weekends. I go to the gym immediately after school and I have to leave as soon as school is out. The gym helps me separate work and home and really clears my mind of anything that went on that day that I need to decompress. I also found that when I started getting to school early and getting everything done before students arrived, my stress level was lower, my ability to focus only on the students and building relationships became much easier. I do not bring things home to grade or do on the weekends. I will do personal things with the podcast, blog, Instagram, or creating a fun lesson, but only things I don’t consider to be true work.
4. I’m a first year teacher, any classroom management tips?
First, know that classroom management is trial and error and boy did I make some errors my first year. During my first year I tried things and when they failed, I tried something else. Don’t let it get you down–you will figure out what works for you. One thing I struggled with my first year was focusing so much on being an expert on the content, that I was distracted from my most important job–building relationships with my students. It IS important to know your material, but your students need your attention, your feedback, and to know you care and value them MORE than they need you to know every fact about cell organelles. When you focus on being prepared, but living in the moments, allowing yourself to have fun with your students, and being yourself you will find a lot of your classroom management falls into place.
5. From a student, “Do you plan on getting any more class pets?”
Wouldn’t you like to know! LOL. Well, I am not planning on it at the moment. To be honest though, I wasn’t planning on getting a guinea pig either but fate intervened so … stay tuned.
6. Do you take your pets home each weekend?
When they were young, I took them home all the time. Now that they’re older, they enjoy their homes at school more than the one I have at home. Sioux has a mansion and does not appreciate her smaller, more modest home at my house. We have large food bowls, water bottles, and we will check on them over the weekend. My school also has the thermostat set to stay on at night and over the weekends for the pets. I do take them home over long breaks though. The teacher next door has students sign up to take hers home (her husband is allergic to rabbits), which they love so you can structure it in a way that works for you and your home life.
7. What do you recommend for my first classroom pet?
I would suggest either a reptile or a guinea pig (if allowed in your school). Reptiles can be very low maintenance and I have yet to find a student that is allergic to Raphael, my red slider turtle. Guinea pigs, in my opinion are easier to care for than rabbits. They require smaller homes and students love that they squeak/talk to them.
8. How do you pay for your classroom pets?
I would suggest to any teacher interested in their first class pet to consider the lifelong commitment of caring for the animal, first and foremost. They bring so much love and positivity into your classroom, but they deserve a forever home. Then, apply for a Pets in the Classroom grant. They will help you cover the costs of bringing a pet into your classroom. The grants are VERY easy to apply for and are funded quickly. They provide a list of approved pets and partner stores (like Petco) where you can go and use your grant. They also offer yearly sustaining grants and provide you $50 to help pay for your supplies. Apply for a grant here: https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/
9. How do you clean up after your pets?
I teach 7th grade and my students in homeroom clean their cages. They make sure they have food and water, tidy up their cage each morning, and change the litter two-three times per week. I only clean the cages over long breaks.
10. What made you create a Teacher Instagram?
Kayla Phillips (@thelitteacher_) talked me into it, thankfully!
11. How do you keep your passion as a teacher?
TEACHER INSTAGRAM! I am constantly motivated, inspired, uplifted, and learning from other incredible teachers. They motivate me to be the best version of myself. And most importantly, my students. When I focus on them and not on the 1,000 things going on in education I can’t control, it puts into perspective what is truly important. Their futures can be impacted positively or negatively by me. It reminds me to choose wisely and to value the impact I can have in their lives.
12. How do you teach vocabulary and basic concepts without notes?
Flocabulary and BrainPop! These two are my go to when I want a fun way to teach vocabulary without it being boring. If you have not tried them, you have to check it out.
13. What is your favorite thing to teach?
I would have to say cells. It was something I was very stressed to teach the first time, but now it is my favorite unit to teach.
14. How long are your class periods?
My science class periods are one hour and five minutes long.
15. What is your average class size?
I teach anywhere between 26-33 students.
16. Do you only teach science?
I co-teach four sections of science a day. We also have two shorter periods each day where we do a reading and math program for 40 minutes each, school wide.
17. What is co-teaching?
In our county, we have a regular and special education teacher in the same classroom. We work together to meet the needs of all our students and teach science together.
18. What are you going to grad school for?
I am getting my Education Specialist degree in teacher leadership. It is a degree that is newer and only offered in a few states. It helps develop your skills as a teacher leader and is not a degree that will prepare you for being in administration.
19. How do you afford to travel as a teacher?
I budget and always set aside money for travel. I use Scott’s Cheap Flights to find airfare deals (an email subscription) and then book low cost AirBnB’s.
20. What is your favorite place you have traveled?
Probably Ko Samui, Thailand. I fell in love with the people, the food, the elephants, and the islands. It is heaven and I really want to go back.
21. What is on your list of places you want to visit?
South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands.