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Volunteering 101: The 3 "Bes" and a FREEBIE



When I made the choice to accept a new role that focused on teacher preparation versus direct classroom instruction, I knew it'd be a struggle. After six years of running my own show classroom, taking on a more advisor-ish role was quite the change. In order to satiate my thirst to be in front of kids, I decided to volunteer at my old school. That said, I had to recognize the limits of my "reach" and adhere to someone else's rules and regulations. This is often easier said than done. I think of this as intent vs. impact. Wanting to volunteer to help out a school or class is a great, but if the action that follows hinders more than it helps we have a #problem. Below are a few tips on being an A+ volunteer in a classroom.
This should go without saying, but everyone has their own definition of professionalism. My thoughts are:

  • Dress for Success: I'm not saying you need a ballroom gown (ha!), but anything that could be interpreted as PJs is a "no-go." 
  • Be Consistent: Let your teacher and the students know if you are missing a day, and try not to let this happen too frequently. If you've committed to a day and time, only cancel for true emergencies. 
  • SPEAK UP: When walking through the halls introduce yourself to the staff. It's really awkward to see someone every week who just walks by without saying a word. 
  • Kids are Kids: Building relationships with the students is important, but should not come at the expense of you being viewed by the children as "one of them." I love my kiddos, but they need rules, limits, and boundaries that align with their school environment. I use the same rules and procedures that the teacher has in place.  
  • Build Relationships: Take time to get to know the students.Below is the "Meet the Teacher" I created printed for the kids. They were glued to every detail about me! 
   Click HERE for a FREEBIE
Time is so precious, please don't waste it. If a teacher is gracious enough to allow you time with the students make the most of it. 
 Click HERE for a FREEBIE
  • Meet with the teacher to determine key ideas and concepts to cover 
  • Seek out feedback 
  • Record yourself and make adjustments 
  • Plan ahead and bounce ideas off your teacher 
I met with my teacher before my first day and used the forms above to collect in formation about the students. I used that information to make folders and arrived about 20 minutes before my scheduled "class" to prepare the room I would be using. As my basketball coach would say, "Fifteen minutes early is on time, and on time is late!"  


 Lastly, have fun!!! Volunteering should be stress-free for the teacher, and fun-filled for the students and the volunteer! Hope you liked it!

Do you have any tips for volunteers? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section. 

Gimme FIVE Please!

I am teaming up with Erica over at Heaven in Grade 7 for a very simple giveaway! With the TPT Boost Sale approaching, we wanted to give teachers an opportunity to "WIN IT BEFORE YOU BUY IT."  Entry is very simple! Head on over to my TPT store and find five items you would like. Come back to my blog and post the name of those items and your email address in the comments section. At 10pm EST I will use a random number generator to find a winner who will win ALL FIVE ITEMS! Good deal right?

Be sure to check out the other participants for more opportunities to win fabulous products! Enjoy!

Throwback Thursday - Teacher Edition

As students, teachers, parents, and guardians head back to school, I've been reminiscing on my first few years in the classroom. I taught students with emotional and behavioral disabilities my first three years and boy did I L-O-V-E it! I've never participated in a "Throwback Thursday" so I decided to join in with the rest of the world for #TBT (Teacher Edition) to share fond memories from my first year teaching in the form of three highs, two lows, and one thing I wish I knew.


1.) I am proud of the relationships I built with my students. At the time I thought it was "normal" to teach a self-contained class of middle schoolers EVERY SUBJECT (except PE). I now know that is not the case (go figure). It was the grace of God that got me through my first year because days were long and it was just me and the kids. I literally had 15 different paraprofessionals and for a while it was just me. That considered, we were a family. We were the only class in a portable (The Portable 2 Crew) and we loved it! I tried my best to make learning fun, and brought my "A+ Attitude" daily. When my grandma passed away my students wrote sympathy cards which lifted my spirits, reminded me how much we loved each other, AND that I had lots of work to do with them academically! #itsthethoughtthatcounts #weallmakemistakes #whereishellvan
2.) You can't have a family without parents and guardians and mine were the backbone of my program. I was warned that I wouldn't get much parental involvement, but that was a lie. #stereotypesandjudgement The parents and guardians of my students were a part of the family. When I called, they answered. When we needed, they gave. When we went, they came. Now it wasn't roses all the time, but that is true of any family, right???

3.) My school had two classes servicing students with EBD. We also had a counselor and a behavior interventionist. This was the third layer of joy from my first year. We worked so well together and built lasting bonds (shout out to Ms. Sierra and Ms. Wright)! Together we celebrated student "milestones," encouraged each other, and brought opportunities such as field trips and guest speakers to the kids. They kept me sane and I LOVE THEM.


1.) I hope it's not surprising that as a first year teacher I STRUUGGGLLLEEDDD with managing IEPs and student academics! I tried my best to stay on top of student goals, but finding time to assess was my Achilles Heel. #dontjudgeme That year I had 6 (sometimes more) MIDDLE SCHOOL preps and 12-15 students with externalizing behaviors. I BARELY kept my head above water! If you are wondering about the number of preps....sit back. I had students in grades 6-8 and "taught" all subjects. There was a range in students' abilities, but about half of my students were at or above grade level! This complicated things because 7th graders didn't want to do six grade work, and 8th graders didn't want to do six grade work, ect, ect. The seminal works for RTI hadn't been written, but even if they had, who has time to read in their first year????While used different methods for grouping students it was ROUGH!
2.) The biggest low was that I didn't advocate enough for my students and myself. Teaching all those preps was CRAZY.  No one knew how much I was struggling (or if they did they kept quiet) because I made it look easy and never complained. This hurt no one more than my students. All of my students were children of color and the majority were from low income backgrounds. The stakes were too high for me to not speak up. If I had, I might might have been able to exit more students from the program which would have increased the likelihood of them graduating from high school. My students deserved more from me in terms of speaking my truth (the preps, IEPs, ect.) so that they could have access to more.

As cliche as it sounds, I also wish I knew about TPT! More specifically, there are a few too many resources that I wish existed during my first year. Below are a few I have listed, but there's sooooooooooo many more!!! If I were in the same situation right now, I would recognize that explicit instruction of character and behavior skills is critical, math is not my strength, ALL of my students need help with writing, and social studies is a real subject. In that spirit I have picked out resources that I would use.


Here's a surprise (in true teacher form),  if you made it this far and you are one of the first three people to comment, I will send you an item of your choice from my store. I got a little teary eyed writing this and thinking about ALL of the veteran teachers who shared resources with me and I want to continue to pay it forward! Blessings!

You Oughta Know About Keeping Pencils Moving

I'm participating in my first blog hop with Mrs. Mcclain
When I taught writing one thing that DROVE ME CRAZY, seriously crazy, was when my students weren't writing (go figure). We've all been there... you know that place right after completing an awarding winning mini-lesson, giving explicit directions, and checking for understanding. You think everyone is ready, but when you say go, a few students just sit.You oughta know that some colorful pencil toppers could be the end to that. There are three different toppers:
  1. Green = I am good to go 
  2. Yellow = I am okay for now, but could use a check-in soon 
  3. Red = I need help 
The key to using these is the level of ownership (and competition) you put on the students. After checking for understanding and letting them know who I would be be conferring with, I would do a final sweep for questions and then say "Green Goes Up," which is the cue that everyone in the class should be using a pencil with a green topper. Before saying "Write!" I build a little excitement by noting "Last period had all green and yellow for the first 13 minutes, but I believe this class can go fifteen minutes, WRITE!" Students know that the moment I say "write" the clock is running. My middle schoolers loved competition! 

When I worked with a student or small group I could always look up and know where my writers were, which was really important to me. The toppers are big enough so that teachers can quickly scan around and see every pencil. The goal is to keep pencils moving throughout independent writing time! #greenismydream

The red pencil topper has a little checklist of things to do while waiting for help, which should reflect whatever you want students to do. In my writing class I emphasized planting a new seed in their Writer's Notebook, silently reading, reviewing their notes, and making sure they have a specific question/thought. If students were reading when I arrived, I would spend two minutes talking about what they read because my students sometimes liked to fake read (that's a post for another day). Lastly, I stopped enabling kids from having questions or comments like "What should I write" or "I'm stuck." Students had to be precise with what was holding them back. I know that some teachers like to do an "Ask 3 Before Me," but during writing class I want students writing and not disturbing others. 

 USAGE TIP: Laminate them!

Well those are my two cents... Hope you liked it! 

Five for Friday

Where did June and July go (insert emoticons) ????  I am linking up with Doodle Bugs for 5 for Friday! Last week was my last week in Chicago so this post is dedicated to the awesome summer I had there, and there's some major news at the end!


“Who wants that perfect love story anyway? Cliché Cliché Cliché Who wants that hero love that saves day?”  - Beyonce (Part II)

I went to the Jayz and Beyonce “On The Run” tour in Chicago last week and it was pretty amazing. I am a HUGE Beyonce fan and missed out on her “Mrs. Carter World Tour” because I was working summer school (as usual). After the tour ended my fiancé promised that we’d be at the next Beyonce concert. Little did he know that she would make an announcement that her and Jayz would be on tour at the same time we would be in Chicago! #meanttobe. I have to commend my Jay for going because he is a Jazz musician so this was somewhat out of pocket for him. We had a blast together though. He enjoyed (I think) listening to me go word for word with all of Beyonce’s songs J

 I am (finally) on Summer break!!!!! After a long summer in Chicago Public Schools it's time for me to rest up! Yay!!!!! The only vacation trip we have planned is a quick one to Seattle for a wedding. I've never been to Seattle and I am really looking forward to it. Hoping to get some fresh fish while I am there! 
I have the pleasure of working for a nonprofit that trains and places beginning teachers in urban and rural communities. It was REALLY hard to step out of the classroom (temporarily) to take on this role, but I’ve been able to connect with literally thousands of teachers from all over the country and believe that I’ve grown so much as a leader, teacher, and person.  After three amazing summers in Chicago I will be moving on to work with teachers in Atlanta.   I am going to miss them all so much, but thanks to social media that they just a keystroke away! 


 I.LOVE.FOOD!!!!!! I had the chance to go to Alinea in Chicago, which is one of the premier restaurants in the WORLD. I was a little nervous because as much as I love food it is rare that I go into a restaurant and order without adding my little flair to the menu (wink, wink). This was not that type of restaurant. Everything from the entrance into the restaurant, to the number of courses was different. They served 15 courses, which includes the chef coming out and creating a unique dessert design for the final course. Ironically we received the menu at the END of dinner. Ha! I actually enjoyed not having to worry about the menu and each new course that came out was a surprise because I didn’t know what was next. I would love to go back, but as a food connoisseur there are other Michelin 3-Star restaurants around the world that I would love to try. Jay and I did a little "Lady and the Tramp" at the restaurant. #livethedream

 I NEED a wedding planner. My fiance popped the question one week ago and I was speechless! I had no idea it was coming, which made it so special. Even more special was the fact that he proposed with his great grandmother’s engagement ring, which is almost 100 years old. #classic As a lover of all things vintage I was so touched by the ring and the proposal. My boyfriend fiance is my best friend so I am amazed that he was able to keep a secret for so long.  That said, I am clueless when comes to what to do next. I know that I could probably Google it, but this is a situation where I would like to be able to talk to someone. I don’t think I am the “Bridezilla” type, but I am very detailed oriented. If anyone knows of an affordable wedding planner in Florida or has a list that every bride to be needs please send that along!

#heputaringonit