Classroom Vision: 7 Questions to ask yourself to set the foundation of your classroom.

Classroom Vision: 7 Questions to ask yourself to set the foundation of your classroom.

When I first started teaching, I felt overwhelmed. Here I was, straight out of college, with virtually no student teaching experience, staring at the reality that in a couple short weeks, I will be left alone in a room with 20 plus 7th graders and expected to keep them alive, and better yet, actually TEACH them something. I had no idea where to start. Thankfully, I had the guidance of older and experienced teachers who shared the best advice which I still utilize today. I needed to start with a vision.

Like all leadership positions, the tone, direction, and culture starts with you. In order for me to lead my students in the classroom, I had to first understand where I wanted to lead them. I had to ask myself, “What type of classroom environment and values do I want to work towards?” I found this effective. I am happy to say that today, my district student survey results are positive with many of the domains over the ditrict average and some of the domains were even over the state average. My students report that they feel respected in my classroom, and I accredit that to starting with these questions, and then working to build systems around them. 

I want to share this with you because I truly believe that to have a classroom where all feel welcomed and valued, it must start with being intentional about the questions you ask yourself surrounding what you want to be true for your students. Here are 7 questiong to ask yourself when you begin to plan your year. I hope it helps!

  1. What is the goal of the year? What do you want students to walk away with when they leave at the end of the year?

I want you to push beyond data and numbers in this question. The skills and habits you want them to leave with is important, but I would also push you to think about personally and professionally how you want them to feel. Because I teach 9th graders, a big part of what I want my students to leave with are skills to reflect and process emotions. This is something that will not only help them to focus on their work more effectively, but also help them to navigate life far beyond my classroom.

  1. How do you want students to feel when they come into your room?

This is a big one. Though it seems small, whether a student feels welcome, safe, and seen, plays a LARGE role in the overall classroom culture and if a student will be open to tackle new content and ultimately learn. Think of adjectives that you want your students to feel like when they come in. For me, I want my students to feel safe, seen, open, loved, and empowered. 

  1. How do you envision students engaging with the work?

Do you envision your students up, doing hands-on activities, and engaging with manipulatives? Do you see students regularly engaging in sustained silent reading? Students taking charge of their learning and exercising agency and choice? When you picture the perfect student engagement, what do you see? Since I am an English teacher, I see students tackling rigorous texts and engaging in dialogue about their ideas of how the text relates to their lives, and the world at large. 

  1. With what mindset do you envision students approaching problems and difficult situations in your classroom?

Learning does not take place unless you engage with something new and challenging. So, at least for me, approaching problems and difficult situations is the entire point of school! What mindset do you envision your students having when they approach work that may push them out of their comfort zone? What kind of self-talk do you want them to have? What types of resources do you want them to have access to? How do you want them to proceed when they get stuck?

  1. How do you want relationships to look like in your classroom? What language do you see them using with one another? How do you see conflict being resolved?

Conflict is unavoidable both in your classroom and in life. One of the most important lessons we can make space for in our classroom is how to approach conflict in a healthy way. It is imperative that we are intentional and explicit with students about how we handle conflict. In order to do this, you must flesh out for yourself, how do you see it taking place in the classroom? What level of voice? What language? At what point do they need to involve the teacher or a mediator? How do we move forward?

I would also push you to think through how you want students to celebrate each other and themselves? Do you have a unifying cheer? Are students leaving shoutouts on a shoutout board? Are you ending each classperiod with glows? Being intentional from the start can make celebrating and positive thinking a staple in your classroom. Especially if you teach secondary, don’t assume that this will develop on its own. Intentionality is key!

  1. What do you want your students to remember from your class when the year is over?

What do you want as the main take away? For me, it was the mindset of “No failure, only data,” And because I started intentionally from the beginning, by the end of the year, I had students quoting it to me when I found myself in a fixed mindset. I would like to think that is what they took with them moving on. What do you want to stick for your students?

  1. What do the STUDENTS want to be true in their classroom?

I saved this for last, not because it is the least important, but because you cannot ask this question until after the school year starts. Though you want to have a foundational vision when stepping into the year to build systems around, it is extremely important to get the student’s values and input as to what they want their classroom to be because in the end, the classroom is for them. I ask my students at the beginning of the year what their goals are and what they value. What they want to get out of the class, and I make adjustments to be sure that the students can see themselves reflected in our classroom.

After you think through all of the questions, you can begin to build systems around the answers. If you want students to feel seen when they come into your room, maybe build a system where you are at the door greeting them each class period, or start off with a emotional check in for the warmup before jumping into the work. If you envision your students collaborating, set your room up in groups. If you envision students dealing with conflict in a professional way, maybe introduce them to sentence stems and then incentivise their usage. When you know where you’re going, it is easier to know what systems to put in place!

THANK YOU!

I really hope these questions have been helpful. Remember, you are amazing, and so many students and parents are grateful for you even though, sometimes it might not seem that way. I will see you next time, and in the meantime, remember, you are enough.

5 tips to get you through school and a full time job! (or any busy season!)

I know that I have been away for a while, and that is because I had a busy season within my life. I planned a wedding and got married! I moved twice! I got into a graduate school program and earned my degree. All while still teaching 9th grade English full time. 

This blog, formerly known as everydaylicious, has truly helped me turn everyday delicious, but not just from a food standpoint. It helped me to find value outside of work and learn that making life amazing is a daily choice. Now that I have taken a step back, I realize that cooking and recipes are just a piece of the puzzle. I truly wish to bring joy to educators, and busy people alike. Moving forward my blog will be a platform to share lessons learned throughout life in hopes to help others nourish their mind and body to affect their classroom.

For my inaugural blog post, I want to share how I survived such a busy season with my mental health intact. Here are some tips I learned along the way. Hopefully this will help you with any busy season that you’re in.

This busy season culminated in me graduating from The University of Texas with a Masters in Educational Leadrship and Policy

1. Be Kind to yourself!

If you are not your cheerleader, then you very well may be your enemy. This seems like a simple tip, but I chose to put it first because without this, I feel like it doesn’t matter what you do because you will always feel like you are not good enough. I was hit hard with imposter syndrome when I started my school work. It took me a long time to realize that I need to talk myself up! I started putting positive sticky notes all over my house saying things like “You got this!” and “You go Glen Coco!” It worked to remind myself that I am doing my best, and that is enough which leads to more productivity and the push I need to complete tasks.

2. Lean on others!

You are not alone. Speak to your professors, lean on your classmates, lean on your friends and support system. I did my graduate program with a cohort, so it was easy for me to identify those who I can reach out to when I needed clarification or motivation, but even if you do not have a cohort to lean on, I strongly encourage you to find your people or person because they could be the difference between you giving up and finishing strong. Put your pride and competitive nature away, and ask for help!

3. The slow cooker is your best friend!

With a full time job, a new marriage, and a full time course load, finding time to eat is one of the most challenging things to do. I did not want to fall into a cycle where I am getting fast food every day because my wallet and my body could not handle that. I leaned on slow cooker meals to set it and forget it.The food would either be done when I woke up to pack and take to work for lunch, or I would set it in the morning, and come home to a meal just before I had to hop on zoom for a class!

4. Find a system that works for you!

I made the best purchase when I bought my ipad because I knew that I needed somewhere I could store all of my notes and reading materials. I downloaded the “good notes” app which allowed me to electronically take my lecture notes and import my pdf’s from the syllabus where I could highlight and make notes on them just as if they were paper. I also downloaded all of my books on kindle to read on my ipad. This made it convenient. If I had my ipad, I knew I had all of my study materials, and I didnt have to worry about leaving anything anywhere. 

I stress that you should also have a system for your personal care. If you do not make time for things that feed your soul, you will run out of steam before your reach the finish line. Take your mental, emotional, and spiritual health just as seriously as you take the health of your GPA. Schedule it in your calendar, and actually do it. If something comes up, you can move it, but don’t cancel it. Trust me it is worth it.

5. Lastly, Balance is the best option.

Sometimes I would have to say no to things that I really wanted to do. Sometimes I knew that I needed to press a little harder because I had overlapping deadlines, but if I did have to push harder, I would be intentional about my rest. Understand that there are ebbs and flows to your work. You cannot poush 100% all the time at anything and expect to endure with your mental health. Give yourself a plan for how you are going to set boundaries and say no to some stuff when it is difficult.

Thank you!

Remember, you’re amazing just for being you. I hope these ideas help you in your journey and remember, mind, body and then you can worry about the classroom.

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

Lately, I have found myself craving lemon bars. Instead of going out and buying them, I decided that I would try and make them myself. I am glad that I did. Here is the recipe if you would like to do the same!

Recipe

Ingredients and Equipment
  • lemons (6)
  • sugar 3 cups
  • powdered sugar 2/3 cups
  • all-purpose flour 2 and 1/2 cup
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • melted unsalted butter 12 tbsn
  • eggs (8)
  • Baking pan
  • Parchment paper

Making the Short Bread Crust!

Step 1: Prepare dry ingredients

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flower, 2/3 cup of powdered sugar, and 1/2 tsp of salt.

Step 2: Mix in melted butter

Add 12 tbsn of melted butter to your dry ingredients. I used my standing mixer with a paddle attachment, but you can use a hand mixer or you can mix it by hand. This will create a crumble. Don’t freak out if it doesn’t seem like a traditional batter, it is supposed to be thick and crumbly!

Step 3: Press the batter/crumble

Line your baking dish with parchment paper. Make sure that your parchment paper hangs over the side of your dish so that you can use it to remove your bars in the end. Pour the crumble into the baking dish and use your hands to press it down into the dish covering the whole bottom. The mixer should come together creating a crust. Once the entire bottom is evenly covered, place the pan in the oven to bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until slightly golden brown.

Make sure your hands are extra clean!

Making the Filling

While your crust is in the oven, prepare your filling. You want to pour your filling on the crust while the crust is still warm, so use your time wisely!

Step 1: Juice your Lemons

You will need one full cup of lemon juice. How many lemons you need will vary, but I used 6 lemons to get my cup. If you would like to use pre-squeezed lemon juice, you can, but you will not get the same strong lemon flavor!

Step 2: Combine and Ingredients

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 3 cups of sugar, 8 whole eggs, and 1 cup of lemon juice. I used a hand whisk, but you can use a mixer if you would like. Its super easy to mix, just whisk until everything is combined.

Pour, Bake, and Chill

The last thing to do is to pour the filling mixture into the baking dish over the crust, and pop it back into the oven. Bake your lemons bars oat 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 24-26 minutes. Make sure you rotate your bars halfway through to ensure even cooking. The middle will still be a little jiggly! Once it is done cooking, let it cool to room temp, and then put it in the fridge to chill for about an hour. I like to top mine with powdered sugar before serving!

Thank You!

I really enjoyed making and sharing these beautiful lemon bars! Let me know if you try the recipe, and remember to make everydaylicious!