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3 things every #okayteacher needs to do at the end of the year

After the response of my initial #okayteacher post, Learning to be okay with being an okay teacher, I decided to turn it into a series. As the school year is coming to an end, I wanted to give 3 simple pieces of advice for any #okayteacher, and really any teacher.

The end of the year is a stressful, but also fun time with our kids. There is a ton to get done, and it seems like everything happens all at once. Here is my top 3 tips to help you survive and feel okay with being an #okayteacher.

If you're a teacher on social media, as an avid poster or an avid browser, you're going to start seeing teachers prepare their end of the year gifts for their students. You're going to see really cute ideas! Some you may feel inspired by. Some you may feel like you're the worst teacher in the world, because all you were planning on giving them was something simple. You will see inexpensive gifts, and you will see expensive, time consuming gifts. Do not feel obligated to go over the top and deep into your wallet for your student gifts. You do things for you students all year long. Whether that is purchasing extra supplies, treating them to a fun snack, or simply being their amazing teacher. Your students are not going to know how much money or time you spent on them. They will know how much you love them, and that doesn't have to be an elaborate expensive gift. The best gifts come from the heart, and those are the gifts your students will remember and cherish.

This is one thing I did for my students last year. It did take some time, but it was time well spent. I wrote each of my students letters. I reflected on the year I had with them, told them how special they were, and how proud I was. I included paper, pencil, envelope, and stamp, so they could write me back this summer. I received letters from almost every one of my students last summer.

You probably have some days built up and can take a day off just for you. At the end of the year, it is easier to take a day off because your classroom has routines and procedures established, and that makes it a little easier to take a day to yourself. I took my first personal day ever for just me last month. I slept in, went to the spa for a massage (thanks to my amazing husband), and did nothing. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. If you can't take a full day, try taking a morning or afternoon. If you still can't take a day from school actually off, take a night or weekend off from school work. Take time for you. There is no shame in that. 
Today I went to the movies with my husband rather than lesson planning. My plans are still yet to be written as I work on grad school and try to enjoy my Sunday evening. When I published my blog post back in January about being a teacher with anxiety, I had no idea it would touch so many people. I love hearing from each and every one of you. Your stories help me, too! So I decided to unite us all with an #okayteacher tee. When you wear it, I want you to be reminded of all of the other teachers that are right there with you. Doing everything possible while still being human and living a life outside of the classroom. 💕 "Because being an okay teacher in my mind, can still mean that I'm a great teacher in the minds of my students." Tee is available on lpaulldesigns.com and also linked in my profile.
A post shared by Lindsey Paull (@missjohnstonsjourney) on

The weather is getting nicer and if you had state testing, you're probably done or will be soon. April and May is the best time to step away from the lesson plans. Take your class outside and let them be kids. Play a game as a class...tag, kickball, or what my class just did the day before Spring Break...Duck, Duck, Goose. It is so much fun watching your kids just be kids! They work so hard, they deserve to have fun. I know it is hard when you still have standards x,y, and z to cover, but giving your kids a 15 minute break will be okay. Rainy day? Show a video. Don't be ashamed to turn on a Magic School Bus episode or Bill Nye. They will survive, and so will you.

Cheers to the rest of the school year, and cheers to being an #okayteacher.

Stay tuned for more #okayteacher posts. I have loved hearing each and every one of your stories via email, messages on Instragram and Facebook, and comments. It has warmed my heart to let teacher unite through their struggles and feeling of inadequacy. You are enough. You are more than okay. I love seeing your #okayteacher moments. Please continue to share them using the #okayteacher on Instagram.

Learning to be okay with being an okay teacher

I've tried to write this post for a long time now, but couldn't manage allowing myself to be vulnerable. Then I realized that I'm probably not alone. So, I finally decided it was time to share.

Last April, I had a panic attack. This was a first for me. While in the middle of a conversation, I remember telling my husband something was wrong as my breathing began to change and become very shallow. My legs wouldn't stop shaking and I began to lose the ability to communicate. I could hear myself in my mind saying what I wanted to say, but the words weren't coming out of my mouth. I stopped breathing. I held my head between my legs as my husband told me I had to breathe. Again, I could hear myself in my mind telling me to breathe, that if I didn't I was going to pass out. But I couldn't breathe.
I don't know how much time passed.

I do know that my husband took me to the emergency room, and I was scheduled an in-take appointment for the following Monday at our mental health clinic upon being discharged a few hours later.

I then began to get anxiety about my anxiety.
Am I crazy? I'm not crazy. I'm fine. I don't need help. I'm just stressed. I'm fine. Do I need medicine? I don't want to be on medicine. I'm fine. I don't need to talk to anyone. I'm fine.

I wasn't fine. I'd been dealing with anxiety and mild depression for years. I finally came to a breaking point. That breaking point was the stress and pressure I endure from the job I love, but also hate.

I had been having a pretty hard month in what was a pretty good school year, but certain aspects of my job were really weighing heavily on me. And that's when I began to crack.

After my first panic attack, I had more. I had to learn breathing techniques and learn how to not catastrophize things, which is something that I am continually working on. Every day is a battle. I have good days, and bad days. There are times when I go to therapy thinking...I don't have anything to talk about...then I find myself spilling my guts through tears 10 minutes later. Because let me be clear, teaching wasn't the only thing causing me anxiety. I had personal battles that I had been dealing with in silence since I was 7 years old. But teaching was definitely taking its toll on me.

I thought I would do really well in the summer months, because I wasn't worrying about my job. However, the 1st week of summer I was told that my section of 3rd grade was being eliminated and I was being moved. Cue anxiety. My anxiety last summer was probably worse than what it was when I had my first panic attack. It was really defeating.

I started this blogging/social media world of teaching almost the same time I started teaching. This was both a blessing and a curse. You see, for someone with anxiety whose primary core belief is never being good enough, seeing the amazing things other teachers do, makes you feel everything but amazing.

I constantly feel that I'm not doing enough. I feel guilty if I take a couple hours on a weekend to just sit and watch TV, when I could be creating things for my classroom, TpT, or even getting ahead on my business orders. I also feel guilty when I don't stay late or get to school early. There is SO much I could be doing at school, especially since I'm in a new grade level this year, but honestly, I'm just trying to get through the day. I rarely stay late. I have gone in early. I do go in on weekends.

What I've slowly began to realize, thanks to therapy, is that if I don't take that time for ME, I'm not being the best teacher I can for my students. I'm not being the best wife for my husband. I'm not being the best mom for my animals (judge me). Because you need time for yourself. Every single day I try to do something for me. Usually that is a trip to Starbucks in the morning. My colleagues make fun of me for paying $5 for a coffee almost every morning, but it makes me feel good. I shouldn't feel bad about that. But I do, on a regular basis.

This school year has been a pretty difficult one for me. I try not to talk about it too much on social media, but just know that I am struggling. I also know that there are many of you who are struggling, too, for various reasons.

This year I have second guessed my career on multiple occassions. I've worried about being part of the statistic we all hear in college about teacher turn over and teachers leaving the field after 5 years or less. I'm on year 5, and I totally get it.

The point of this post is simply to share. To let others know that they're not alone, because that's how I felt. I felt like how is everyone else doing this? How do they have time to create new products all the time? How do they have time to reorganize their classrooms all the time? How do they have the energy to stay til 9PM 3 times a week and go in on weekends? How do they balance this all with being a wife and a mom? I'm not even a mom, yet, how am I ever going to find a way to do all of it?!

The answer is...I won't. I will have to learn to give things up. To not do as much. To not worry when it doesn't get done.

I'm going to have to learn that it's okay to be an okay teacher. Because being an okay teacher in my mind, can still mean that I'm a great teacher in the minds of my students.

I would love to hear from you if you feel comfortable sharing your story. You can leave me a comment, message me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or email me at thrivingin3rd@gmail.com

Gumball Machine Motivation

My school is a PBIS school. That stands for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. 
You may have heard of it, you may not have. Either way, I came up with an idea to help encourage my students' positive behavior that can be used whether or not you're a PBIS school.

I give you, the gumball machine.

The gumball machine is filled with purple glitter "gumballs" (from Hobby Lobby, here) and colorful paw print beads (from Oriental Trading, here).
Paw-Shaped Large Hole Beads - 11mm FOAM BALL GLITTER CONFETTI 15-18MM
When I introduced the gumball machine last month, we decided what each item's prize would be. My students chose rewards that THEY wanted. 
Throughout the week, my students earn Grayhound Pride tickets for showing exemplar behavior by being respectful, responsible, and safe. 
Every Friday, I draw 2 of these tickets. They cross everything they have, hoping to be drawn!
They're the cutest.

These students earn a coin for the gumball machine. They come up, put their coin in, and BOOM!

 Out comes their reward(s). Sometimes they get one, sometimes two, sometimes several.  They earn every prize that comes out.
The paw beads are smaller than I had hoped, so sometimes they come out in groups, and of course the kids love when that happens! I love the bright colors of the paws and how perfectly they fit with our new mascot, grayhounds. My district did away with individual mascots and colors this school year, so now all 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school are purple and gray grayhounds.
They're SO excited to see what their peers get.
 The most common is the purple gumball.

Do you see how excited he is?! I love it!

Kids are more excited about the paw beads than they are the purple gumball. I think it has everything to do with the fact they chose what the prize would be. The only thing that costs me money is the sweet treat, which is just their favorite candy, so it's not too expensive, and keeping the prize box stocked.

I hope that this inspires you and gives you ideas of how you can reward positive behavior in your classroom! Please comment or email me at thrivingin3rd@gmail.com if you have any questions!

I was provided these products featured in this post from Oriental Trading for review purposes. All opinions are mine alone and based off of the experience I had with the products I reviewed.
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