June 28, 2017

How to Create Empowering Habits that Will Lead to Permanent Change

How much of your day do you think is governed by your habits and routines? Would you guess 50%? Less? More?

I don't know about you, but when I think about how I spend my day, I realize that most it consists of routines and procedures I've developed over the years. I follow a certain morning routine, I shop at the same stores, I take the same route when driving around town, and so on. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one whose day-to-day habits follow predictable patterns!

Most of the time there's nothing wrong with us following established routines. They definitely save us time and allow us to be more efficient. In fact, we'd never accomplish anything if we had to rethink the best way to do every activity all day long!

But the problem comes in when we develop unhealthy habits without even realizing it. This can easily happen when we are overworked or dealing with stressful situations, challenges that face most teachers every single day.

Instead of going to the gym or taking a walk after school, we stay late to grade papers, gather materials, and plan the next day's lesson. When we finally leave, it's almost time for dinner which makes a fast-food stop very tempting. Forget about sitting down to read a book or catch up with friends on Facebook at the end of the day because there are more papers to grade and children at home who need help with homework. We'd love to have time for ourselves, but we've learned to put everyone else's needs ahead of our own. Over time, we fall into routines that do us far more harm than good.

Then we hit the wall and realize we just can't go on this way any longer. We resolve to make changes and kick those bad habits. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done, especially if our bad habits are behaviors we've developed over time. Anyone who has made a New Year's resolution only to abandon it a few days later knows that bad habits are extremely difficult to break.

Never enough time...
One reason teachers have trouble learning to take care of ourselves is that we're convinced that we MUST work those long hours in order to be effective. Face it. If you're working 60 or 70 hours a week, there's not much time left over to develop empowering habits of rest and self-care.

I'm going to admit it. I used to feel this way, too. I was convinced that I had to work 12 hours a day during the week and at least a few hours each day on the weekend to get it all done. (Picture me grading papers on the way to the mountains for a weekend camping trip!)

But after I enrolled in Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, I realized that working 60 or 70 hours a week isn't a prerequisite for being a good teacher! By reading her weekly productivity lessons or listening to the audio versions, I discovered that it's possible to be a great teacher and still have time left over for yourself.

In case you're wondering, Angela doesn't expect every teacher who enrolls in the course to reduce their workweek to just 40 hours. That might be too drastic for some teachers, especially in special situations. However, she does ask new club members to evaluate the number of hours they're currently working and choose a new "target number" of hours they'd like to work. Amazingly, within just a few weeks, new members trim 11 hours, on average, from the time they work each week!

Unfortunately, I had already retired by the time learned about Angela's course so I wasn't able to benefit personally from these lessons. That's one reason I love reading the success stories posted by club members in her 40 HTW Club Facebook groups. It's so gratifying to know that there's a program to help teacher workaholics like me learn how to trim hours from their workweeks!

Even when we have enough time....
Another reason it's difficult to kick a bad habit is that most of us simply don't know how. We resolve to improve, but within a few days or weeks we've fallen right back into the same routines that caused the problem. At first, the problem is not having enough time to develop healthy habits, but that factor won't be nearly as important after enrolling in the 40 HTW Club. Remember those 11 hours that the average member trims off his or her workweek after joining the club?

The real question is, how are you going to use the extra time that you carved out for yourself? Having extra time won't make it any easier to get out and exercise when you'd rather sit and watch your favorite shows. Extra time also won't change the fact that it's far easier to grab fast food on the way home than to shop for groceries and cook a meal. So what's the key to kicking these bad habits? If you're like most people, motivation and desire aren't the problem. All of us WANT to develop more empowering habits, but maybe we just don't know HOW to replace bad habits with healthier ones!

Motivational Webinar by from Angela Watson
So how do we learn to change our habits? Angela Watson recently tacked this topic in her motivational presentation, Teachers, YOU are a priority, too: how to create simple habits of rest and self-care that will change your life. She was my guest presenter for this webinar, and she took a deep dive into topic of how to create self-care habits based on your own personality. She packed the presentation with nuggets of wisdom and practical strategies for creating habits of rest and self-care that will result in long-lasting change.

Angela's presentation was one of the most motivating webinars I've ever seen, and I think you'll agree when you watch or listen to the replay. I created the short video clip below from one part of that presentation. Watch it now, and if you like what she has to offer, click here to sign up for the full replay of that webinar. It's only available until July 7th, so be sure to watch it now!


What new habit would you like to develop? 
The steps and strategies that Angela will present can be used to adopt ANY new habit, even habits that aren't specifically related to rest and self-care. But if you aren't getting enough rest and you're not taking care of yourself, that's probably where you should start!

Here's a question I want you to ponder before watch the replay of Angela's webinar: If you could adopt a new habit, and you KNEW that you would be able to stick with it, what habit (or habits) would you create? If you feel comfortable doing so, I invite you to share your ideas in a comment on this post. You never know when YOUR idea might inspire someone else!

Click here to sign up for this limited-time replay! Ends July 7th

Don't forget to sign up to watch the replay of Angela's motivational webinar! You'll learn how to avoid going for quick fixes that fall apart when school starts. Instead, you'll learn how to create new, empowering habits that will lead to permanent change!

June 21, 2017

Summer Super Sale: Free Print Book with Every Ebook Purchase!

Summer is a terrific time to relax and read without the pressure of planning lessons, prepping for school, and grading papers. Fiction is fun, but after you've been on break for a few weeks, you might be ready for something more substantial. You might even be ready to think about new strategies you want to try next fall. If so, one of the three books on the right may provide the motivation and inspiration you need to kick off a terrific year!

Power Reading Workshop, Graphic Organizers for Reading, and Mastering Math Facts: Multiplication and Division are three of my most popular books for teachers, and all three are available in both print and digital format.

Digital books are awesome because you can download them right away and start reading within minutes. Also, when you buy them on TpT, they're always in your account so there's no danger of misplacing them!

But there's nothing like reading the print version of a book if you want to highlight important passages, make notes in the margins, and fill it with sticky notes to mark pages to reread later. Print versions of teacher books are especially helpful if they include lesson plans and teaching strategies that you may want to refer to during an activity.

Which book format do you prefer? If you can't decide, you'll love this special offer from my publisher, Brigantine Media. From now through July 14th, you can receive a free print copy of any (or all) of my books published by Brigantine Media when you purchase the digital versions from my TpT store!


All three books pictured above and the bundles that include them are eligible for this offer. Click the Published Ebooks link in the custom category sidebar of my TpT store to find them quickly, or click the cover images at the bottom of this post. You can preview each of the books before purchasing to decide whether a single book purchase or a bundle would be your best option.

Normally you would have to pay shipping when purchasing a print book, but the publishers are sweetening this deal by offering FREE SHIPPING, too! Special terms and conditions do apply, so be sure to read all of the details of this offer before making a purchase. Because there's no charge for shipping, this offer is only available in the U.S. Also, neither the publisher nor I have access to your contact information, so you'll need to follow the steps outlined below to request your free print copies before the offer ends on Friday, July 14th.

How to Request Your Free Print Book(s) 
  1. Purchase the digital version of one of the eligible books or bundles below from Laura Candler's TpT store no later than July 14, 2017. 
  2. Forward your email receipt from TpT to the publisher within 48 hours. Email it to neil@raphel.com.
  3. Fill out this Summer Super Sale Google Doc form ASAP to provide us with your mailing address and contact information. 
You'll receive an email confirmation within 24 hours of filling out the form and sending your receipt. You'll be able to access the digital versions of the books from your TpT account, and the print copies will be sent to you via media mail and will arrive in 7 to 10 days.

Sounds Too Good to Be True!
From time to time in the past, Brigantine Media offered a free digital copy with each print book, so you might be wondering if you misread this offer. Nope! This time they are offering a free PRINT book with a digital purchase which is even better, and amounts to a 30% discount when you factor in the normal cost of shipping! I know it sounds too good to be true, but the reason they're offering this special deal is actually pretty simple. With today's print-on-demand technologies, they no longer need to keep hundreds of physical books on hand, stockpiled in a warehouse. So they're taking steps to get those books out of the warehouse and into the hands of teachers as quickly as possible. This is good news for you, but it also means you need to act on this offer now if you're interested. When those books are gone and the warehouse is empty, you won't see a deal like this again!






June 9, 2017

6 Ways to Rekindle Your Passion for Teaching Before You Burn Out

No matter how much you love teaching, it's easy to get to the point of burnout before you realize it. One minute you love your job, and the next you're feeling so overwhelmed that you wonder if you can make it to the end of the day, let alone the end of the school year. Everyone feels this way from time to time, but if you continue to feel discouraged day after day, it's time for a change. Ignore these signs, and you could become another teacher burnout statistic.

The key to overcoming teacher burnout is to dig into your feelings and figure out what's wrong so you can do something about it. If you recognize the signs of burnout early, you can rekindle your passion for teaching before it's too late. I speak from personal experience, because during my 30 years of teaching, there were times when I wondered how much longer I could keep going. But each time this happened, I was able to figure out the source of my stress and overcome it. As a result, my passion for teaching would flare up again and burn stronger than ever!

Recognizing the signs of burnout isn't difficult if you take a moment to slow down and you look inside. If you struggle to find any joy in teaching because you are exhausted, overwhelmed, and overworked, you're on the edge of burnout. If you feel irritable and grumpy all the time, and you can't seem to focus your energy on anything positive, it's time for a change.

Studies point to a number of factors that can lead to teacher burnout, including lack of support, student behavior problems, lack of adequate training for the demands of the job, and plain old boredom. I would also add the inability to find work/life balance. When you consistently put everyone else's needs before your own, you end up feeling resentful and even angry because there's never any time left over for you.

Fortunately, there are many ways to combat teacher burnout before you become a statistic. Here are 6 strategies that kept me from burning out and enabled me to love teaching until my last day. You'll probably realize that you're already doing many of these things, but you if you even discover one new strategy that resonates with you, you may find that it makes a huge difference in your outlook.


1. Start taking care of YOU. 

The most important thing you can do is to make yourself a priority, and decide you'll do whatever it takes to start taking care of you! It's easy to feel burned out if you never have time to exercise, cook a healthy meal, read a book for pleasure, or spend time doing activities that you enjoy.

If you're wondering how to accomplish this when your day is already jam-packed, I have some good news. My friend Angela Watson of the Cornerstone for Teachers will be presenting a webinar on this topic, and she's agree to do a special presentation for my followers on June 29th. If you'd like to join us, click over to the registration page and sign up for Teachers, YOU are a priority, too: How to create simple habits of rest & self-care that will change your life.


2. Connect and collaborate with others who love teaching.

If you feel isolated and unsupported, actively seek out your "tribe," a place where you can connect with like-minded teachers who want to share ideas. Facebook makes this incredibly easy because there are dozens of teacher Facebook groups where you can collaborate, get advice, and offer support to others. Be sure to join groups that have a positive vibe, where teachers are sharing ideas and supporting each other rather than venting about their problems. If you end up in a group where the majority of the posts have a negative tone, leave the group before you get sucked into those discussions!

I loved collaborating with other educators, and I was inspired by many fabulous teachers during my teaching career. After Facebook rolled out groups,  I created several groups for teachers, including the Upper Elementary Teacher Connection. This group is a place where teachers in grades 2 through 6 can connect and with each other to share their passion for teaching. Group members discuss active engagement teaching strategies, share innovative instructional approaches, help each other find curriculum resources, ask advice about situations they're facing at school, and so on. If you're interested in joining, click over to the Upper Elementary Teacher Connection page on my site to read the guidelines and apply for membership. It's free, but you do have to fill out a Google Doc form before you can be added to the group.

3. Transform your classroom into a place you love to be!  

One of the most stressful aspects of being a teacher is the sheer number of hours spent in a classroom with 25 or 30 children who seem to test your limits constantly. I used to feel like I was constantly battling my students to assert myself and gain control in the classroom. I left school every day exhausted, and I had to take a nap before I could do anything else!

Honestly, I was starting to wonder how much longer I could stay in the classroom. The turning point came when my district started providing great professional development, and I spent a week in a Kagan cooperative learning workshop. I was trained in the structural approach to cooperative learning, and I also learned classroom management strategies that helped me implement the techniques effectively. What a game changer! My classroom was never the same!

I began using cooperative learning strategies in every subject area, and I taught social skill lessons to help my students learn to get along with others. Instead of working in isolation, struggling with the content on their own, they worked with partners or in teams, talking about what they were learning and engaging with the content in meaningful ways.

What a different this made, not only to my students who were happier and learning more, but also to me personally. Instead of dragging myself to school in the morning, I was excited and full of energy, ready to try new strategies with my students. My classroom became a place I loved to be, and my students loved to be there with me!

This experience taught me about the importance of creating a caring classroom environment and using active engagement strategies. When you make learning both challenging and fun, kids don't have time to think about misbehaving.

Over the years, I developed a step-by-step system for getting the school year off to a great start, and last year I shared those strategies in a webinar called How to Launch a Super School Year. I don't plan to present it again until late July, but if you can't wait for the live webinar, you can sign up to watch the replay of last year's webinar. As I shared in the webinar, when you believe that this is going to be your best year ever and you act accordingly, it will be!

4. Learn to work smarter, not harder.

We've all heard this advice, but what does it really mean? Until a few years ago, I had never heard anyone explain exactly HOW teachers are supposed to work smarter and not harder. Anyone who lives with a teacher knows that they work insane numbers of hours each week, and they never get everything done! The "normal" 40 hour work week sounds like an impossible dream to a teacher who's working 60 or 70 hours a week.

I loved teaching, but I will be the first to admit that I worked far too many hours. It's a wonder that I didn't burn out because I never could figure out how to "work smarter" and not harder. But a few years ago, I found out that it's possible to work less and still be a great teacher. I learned that Angela Watson, who will be presenting the webinar I mentioned earlier, taught 3rd grade for many years, and she was able to work a 40 hour teacher workweek. You can tell from Angela's blog that she was a great teacher, so I was a bit skeptical about her claim that she only worked 40 hours a week.

Then I became a member of her 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club and started learning all of her secrets! Each week Angela sends an email to club members that's packed with productivity strategies, and she also has a Facebook group where members can get support with implementing the strategies. Angela doesn't promise that everyone will be able to reduce their workweek to 40 hours, but data she's collected shows that club members are able to shave an average of 1 hours off every week. That's over 40 hours a month saved just by learning to be more productive!

The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club is only open twice a year to new members, and the last enrollment period ended on July 7th. If you'd like to be notified when the club opens to new members again, click here and provide me with your contact information. I'll email you a reminder a few weeks before membership opens.

5. Never stop learning, growing, and trying new strategies.
One reason I loved teaching was that I was always learning and growing. I loved figuring out new ways to teach a concept more effectively and creating new resources to help my kids become self-motivated learners. Every school year was different, bringing new challenges and new opportunities for growth. I couldn't imagine pulling out the same set of lesson plans and teaching from them every year... how boring! Students come to us with different needs each year, technology is always changing, and brain research continues to provide us with more evidence about how we learn best. How could I possibly teach from last year's lesson plans?

If you realize you're bored because you've been teaching the same thing, year after year, it's time for a change. Why not request a move to a different grade level or teach a different subject? Try a new program with your students, like reading workshop, literature circles, or math stations. Explore a new online tool like Plickers or Kahoot, and make a plan for implementing it in your classroom. Join teacher Facebook groups where you can ask for ideas and advice about new strategies and technologies. How about signing up to watch some of my webinars for teachers? You'll soon feel rejuvenated and ready for a new year!

6. Remember why you became a teacher, and stay true to your purpose. 

If you're like most elementary teachers, you became a teacher because you wanted to work with children and make a difference. But in today's current educational climate, it's easy to lose sight of your purpose when it feels like teaching is more about following district mandates than meeting student needs.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to shut your door and do what you do best... teach! Figure out exactly what you are required to do, and do what's absolutely necessary, but don't be afraid to change things up a bit as long if you truly believe you're doing what's best for your kids. Carve out time for passion projects, reading aloud, class meetings, and learning games. Don't do anything that will get you fired, of course, but you'll find that there are many ways to stay true to your purpose and do what's right for your students.

If you encounter resistance from your administration, even when your students are happy and achieving at high levels, it might be time to seek out a new school family. I remember two times when I felt unappreciated and unsupported by the administration, and it seemed like every idea was met with resistance. I was miserable, and it had nothing to do with my students and their behaviors. In both situations, I decided at the end of the year that it was time to move on. I was so much happier in my new schools that I never regretted those decisions.

Being a teacher isn't the easiest profession, but it's definitely one of the most rewarding. If you recognize the signs of burnout in yourself and take action NOW, you can rekindle your passion for teaching and find joy again in the profession you chose!




Disclaimer: I'm an affiliate of Angela's 40 HTW Club which means I earn a commission each time someone purchases the course after clicking on my affiliate link. However, I would never put this much effort into recommending a course unless I was convinced it was absolutely amazing! I can assure you that if you're willing to do the work, your results will be amazing, even life-changing!

June 3, 2017

Motivating Math Games

Motivating kids at the end of the year can be a challenge, especially if you're still expected to teach skills and review academic content. Whole group instruction is particularly challenging this time of year because it's so difficult to get kids to sit quietly and focus on the lesson when everyone (including you!) is hanging on until summer break!

As a former 4th and 5th grade teacher, I've been there, and I found that the best way to keep kids engaged during the last few weeks was by using math games. I love using games because they are so versatile; you can use them in math centers, cooperative learning teams, or small guided math groups. Math games give kids a chance to talk and move, but it's productive talk and movement, so playing math games is the perfect way to wrap up the school year.

Where to Find Math Games
Whether your school is still in session or you are already on summer break, this is a great time to build up your collection of math games. You can make your own, of course, but they are quite time-consuming to create. I know, because I created loads of math games for my students while I was teaching. I continued to make new math games after I left the classroom, and I've spent considerable time updating my older ones.

I love making math games, but if that's not the way you care to spend YOUR weekends, consider purchasing them from TpT.

Math Games Mega Bundle
If you're an upper elementary teacher, check out my Math Games Mega Bundle because it might be just what you need. This growing bundle includes 16 math games, and if I create new math games (and I probably will), those games will be added to this bundle, too.

Each game is unique, and to really appreciate them, you need to preview them individually. If you'd like to take a closer look at the games in this bundle, click the cover images at the end of this post to find them in my TpT store. If you like all of them, you'll save over $25 by purchasing the bundle!

Earlier this week I hosted a giveaway of this bundle and two $10 TpT gift cards, but the giveaway ended on June 6th. Congratulations to Aimee Wallace, the grand prize winner of the bundle, and to Jaime Homan and Becky Raycroft, the winners of the TpT gift cards.

As a part of the giveaway, I asked teachers to preview the books in the bundle and tell me which ones were their favorites. To enter the contest, they had to comment on my Teaching Resources Facebook page to tell me which games they liked best and why they liked them. I especially loved reading the comments from teachers who already had some of the games because they shared how the games actually worked with their students. If you'd like to read those comments, click over to the giveaway post on Facebook. Even though the contest is over, feel free to comment about which games you like!
Tips for Teaching with Math Games
If you'd like some tips for teaching with math games, check out my post, How to Use Math Games Effectively in the Classroom. In that post, I shared some strategies and techniques for using math games as a part of your instruction rather than just for fun. I also described an easy mini-lesson on how to teach kids to be a good sport. Many of those tips and that mini-lesson are also included in my freebie, Tips for Teaching with Math Games, which you can download from my TpT store. Enjoy!