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Things I am Excited About for This School Year!

I want people to understand more about me and the kind of teacher I endeavor to be for my kiddos when they walk into my classroom.  This requires my classroom to become non-traditional but will also allow me to teach the whole child not just the part that needs to take tests and do well on them.

So here are a few of my favorite things and how I will use them this school year.

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  1. Mood Music: I played music for the kids last school year  as background music but my ahem Urban Setting prompted kids to ask for music that was often inapproriate. As much as I like giving the kids a choice, I will need music that is calming and will allow for productivity–not a dance party. Since I am leaving my issued laptop at work and working at home with my personal device I use Amazon’s Music Player. It is awesome and I do not get a kickback for telling you that. It’s just nice to have a music player I can actually log-in to and use no matter where I am. The typical music players are blocked on my school network but this one is not. I would like to have music for a 90 minute period including slower tempo at the beginning of the list and faster tempos in the last 30 minutes as a home stretch.

My playlist so far:

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2. Having Flexible Seating in my Classroom. When I look back on my favorite classroom I remember it fondly being called “The Fishbowl” It had a glass wall between it and another classroom. There was a large carpet we could sit on, there was also an oversized chair or two and a sofa. We LOVED that classroom. I also remember that we were so relaxed that we honestly did not have a defiant bone in our bodies, and I honestly feel as though it helped our scores. We had the best Reading and English Scores in a school that was also the best in our district. If that is not a testament to the results given from Flexible Seating I don’t know what to do to make you a believer. I have a Donors Choose project set up to help me get Flexible Seating in my Classroom. All donations go through the non-profit that would then purchase the materials. If my project does not get funded by the deadline, you get your donation back. Interested in helping us out? See this link: http://bit.ly/2t782Ka

3. Shaking up my rituals and routines for the first day. I am a fun person. I promise I am. But sometimes my introvert takes over and I come off as serious or stand-offish. Enter the Escape Room Activity. Since I am doing a Game of Thrones themed classroom this year I think that I need an Escape Room. The general idea is to set up questions at each station and if students answer the questions at one station they get to move to their next destination. If they make it to all stations/destinations by the time the timer goes off they will have escaped from the White Walkers (In this Case). I’ll have music, sound effects and video clips OH MY! Maybe built into a Powerpoint. Stay tuned for details on that.

Any suggestions? I would love to hear them. Don’tforget to donate or share my Donors Choose Project!

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featured

Take Time to Love: A Life Post

In the past week I have been out of town twice, once was for a trip to Sea World with my husband and my little. In the other instance of travel, we went to a funeral. I get so caught up with life and trying to be the best at everything I attempt that I sometimes forget to go slow and appreciate.

The weather was HORRIBLE at Sea World so we received Sunny Day Passes to come back another time. I could have been bent out of shape about that but I chose not to. I look at that as another opportunity for me to spend time with my little family. It is a time for us to bond at a later date, that I am committed to and I am looking forward to.  There are many that would LOVE an opportunity to spend a carefree day with their family but cannot. I need to seize and hold every opportunity I can with my loved ones. I also need to build them in and schedule them. They will not happen spontaneously. I need to make the date and commit to what we call in my house “Hugs and Lovin’ ” time.  I also need to make sure I make that time for myself–because I need to be kinder to myself and give myself some hugs and lovin’. That may look like a hot cup of tea in a quiet room for five minutes. But it is necessary.

The funeral was sad for me. My husbands Abuela passed and he was devastated. I felt the loss but it was different. In a family of people who may not have initially accepted me (and some who have still not 8 years of marriage in) because I am culturally and racially different, Abuela took one look at me and claimed me as hers. She never judged. She said I had picked up a little weight and was so pretty. She also wanted me to have another baby. She had a quiet strength to her even though she was well over 90. She spoke and you listened. But she was always a comfort.

This year I will set the things I think of as priorities and let the rest of my obligations fill in the gaps.  I need to take the time to love my family, and I need to take the time to love myself. I need to care for both before I can think about being a productive member of any workforce or society. These are my most important needs, these are things I cannot live without.

I want to be an even more amazing teacher this year. But I also want a balanced life. I cannot care for others and pour so much time into them that I neglect those closest to me. So I won’t. Here’s to Great Expectations for me.

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Uncategorized

Planning Your Passions

During the Summer Months teachers stay busy. We may take Professional Development Courses. We may travel. We sometimes pick up Seasonal Jobs. I have done all of those things before. This year, I am Planning My Passions and how I will get them done. I am also figuring out ways to plan my day and life so I can maintain balance when the school year begins again.

Stress has made me a dreamer. Stress has also made me determine what I can do to change my situation. If money has to be tight, is it beneficial to me to also be extremely stressed? Are there other capacities that I can teach and fuel my passion so I am fruitful and can multiply in areas of my life that have been dormant?

I am creating products on Teacher Pay Teacher to help alleviate the stress of other teachers. Anything I can make to assist. I will. I will design interactive tutorials. But I will also make products that I can use, to help plan my life. I will pursue all of my passions fully and see where life leads.

PreviewDemoTeacherCompanionBlogHere is my latest Teacher Product. It is a Teacher Binder Featuring AMAZING Game of Thrones Inspired Characters. Get this Digital Download Here. The product is designed in a way that allows you to easily print the pages needed at the beginning of each grading period.

Let’s enjoy the journey together.

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Classroom, featured

Summertime and I’m Feeling Fine

This was a difficult and trying school year. I needed this down time from Blogging just so my body could rest and kind of reset. I have grown so much and feel SO EXCITED to go back in August…just not yet. I mean, Mama needs her rest.

Just because you may not be sitting in a freezing air conditioned room for Professional Development does not mean that you cannot grow and evolve. My biggest tip would be to plan little by little over the summer. Make things throughout the summer. Print, cut and laminate gradually. That way during Pre-Planning and during Early Opening time you can begin to put things up. This coming school year I really want to work smarter…not harder. 7thingstoaccomplishtrans.png

  1. Spend Quality Time with My Family…Not Just Spend time Around them because I am off work and…here.
  2. Create Bulletin Board Items, and Plan Bulletin Boards
  3. Post at least 1 Blog Post a Week and Create at Least 1 Product a Week starting with Stuff I will actually Use
  4. Draft a Supply List for my Classroom, Create a Budget and Not Overspend
  5. Have Regular Date Nights with my Husband
  6. Have Fun Day Trips to Another City or Location…Multiple Times
  7. Design My Class Website, and Develop a Plan so I Use it With Fidelity!

What do you want to get done this Summer?

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Classroom

How To: Make a Mini-Exit Slip board + A Freebie and Mini-Tutorial

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It’s the end of the school year and I am trying SO HARD to keep routines going and keep the kids “with-it”. One thing that I should have used more throughout the year, but am using with fidelity now is the Partner Exit Slip Board inspired by the blog “Middle School Teacher to Literacy Coach”.  I needed to tweak her design for my own needs. 

Now that I have had the Exit Slip Board an entire school year, I like the portability of this design but may even make a slightly larger version for the kids to use on their way out of the room. (I have a smallish bulletin board next to the outside of my classroom door that I NEVER UPDATED after the first week of school. Don’t judge me!)partnerexitslipboard

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Here is what you need, and you can click the image for a direct link to EXACTLY what I purchased.

1- Smallish Bulletin Board of your Choice. I get pretty much everything from Amazon. I got my Prime membership while I was a College Student. And as a teacher that also has a toddler, I LOVE being able to get my products in 48 hours or less WITHOUT going in a store.


2. Plain Silver Thumbtacks. I was going for a trendy Nail Head vibe so I went with plain silver thumbtacks to act as my “border”.

3. Scissors: I would direct link to some, but come on, we’re teachers. We have scissors.  You need sharp ones. We will be cutting cloth.

4. Curtain Panels of your choice. You only need 1 panel for the size bulletin board we will be using.  I used this one and actually cut the panel in in half.


5. You also need a GOOD Stapler. This is just a good idea to have in general for your classroom. I have destroyed many paper staplers on bulletin boards. I like this one. It has not failed me yet. 

6. You also need Cardstock and/or Printer Paper that you have used to print out your questions and also laminate (for durability).

7. This is the laminator I use, it periodically goes on sale but I got mine off Amazon. When I purchased it I *think* it came with a pack of pouches, but I don’t remember.

8. 5 Generic Exit Slip Questions that can be applied to your subject. Try things like What can you use that was learned today, in a different teacher’s class? You could also try some of theseFeeling a smidge of burn out? Use the Freebie below in Step Four 🙂 You’re Welcome. 

9. Large Envelopes. I like to use the 5×7 invitation size but I only had regulars, so I used those. These will be for the index cards the kids will use to write their answers on. Once they write their responses they will put them in the right envelope for their question. 

Optional: Scrapbook Paper 
I did not use this brand but it will do a great job. The most important thing is size. My mom purchased the pack I used as a new classroom gift. I have not found it anywhere online.

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Step One: Cut your panel in half. Turn in face down. Be mindful of the direction you want your chevrons or pattern to flow. 

Step Two: Start stapling the panel down on the back of the bulletin board. 

Step Three: Flip the bulletin board around to the front. Start placing your silver thumb tacks around the border of the board. Feel where the covered ridge of the edge would be if you could see it. 

Step Four: Print then Cut out the Freebie in this step. If you want a border like the one in my photo above, place each cut out on top of Scrapbook paper and attach using a white/clear glue stick. Then cut around the image leaving the amount of color you want to show through. When finished, Laminate in the name of Longevity. Remember, cut the item you want to laminate out knowing that you cannot cut on top of what you are laminating only around it.  (If I had to say it, someone has done it).  I want you to be able to personalize for your color scheme. The red color you see behind my cut outs is oversized scrapbook paper. 

Step Five: Attach your labels to the envelopes like I have, then staple to the board to your heart’s content. 

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Classroom

Weekly Teacher Tip: Let’s Handle that “Problem Area” We All Have

So let’s handle that problem area that MOST teachers have. There are a few teachers that always seem to have a Pinterest worthy classroom at all times. This post is not for them. This is for the teachers that have a problem area we conveniently camouflage. Or that area that is just messy…take it or leave it.

Remember that weird Teacher’s Area/Small Group Instruction area I mentioned in an earlier post? Well, this is what the shelving behind the tables looked like when they were a hot mess, and what they were transformed into.

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How did I accomplish this miracle? The Lord sent angels to purify the #hotmess. It took them hours and they said: “It is finished.” No, but seriously. I used photo boxes from my local Michaels store. I also used an old copy paper box that my aunt wrapped in gift wrap paper last summer for my new classroom.

I would love to know what you all think!

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Classroom

9 Things I Wish I Would Have Done and Maintained this School Year

So it’s the End of the Year!!!! Yaaaaay!!!!! Here are the 9 Things I Would Have Done at the Beginning of the Year, and Maintained Throughout the Year. I will also include 2 things that I will correct and set-up for next year, so they are ready to go Day 1 of Classroom Set Up. Ready?!??!?! LEGGO! (Hey. I have a toddler.)

9. I wish I would have re-organized myself, each time I re-configured my desks and classroom. So one thing you should know about my classroom is that I do NOT  have a teacher’s desk. This means that My “area” is housed at my Small Group. Small Group is a round table (photos of that monstrosity are to come in a How-To Post) with a large bookshelf behind it.  I re-organize my classroom desk set up based on my kids and their needs/abilities to focus. I teach 7th-grade GIRLS so they talk ALOT. The result of me focusing on the kids and not me is that my area is a #HOTMESS. I will fix this and show you how later.

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8. I wish I would have taken better care of the extras from each quarter. Even if I don’t teach that lesson the SAME way I wish I would have bought Banker’s Boxes and organized that stuff by Quarter…with a label…AND EVERYTHING. Le Sigh. Next School Year look for a post on this.

7. I wish I would have let the kids run the classroom MORE. This would have saved me some prep time. I did not start doing this until Quarter 2, and by the time Quarter 4 came around I kept getting to work with enough time to make coffee, put down my stuff, then pick up my girls from the Cafeteria. Not EARLY ENOUGH TO GET MY HELPERS. Next school year this will be a classroom job, that I rotate out. So they can prep while I write in my planner and sip coffee. LOLZ. But no, I really am serious.

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6. So Ya’ll (because in the South we say this sometimes) I brought a BOMB SENT FROM HEAVEN PLANNER last year that was NOT one of the famous, super expensive, Lesson Plan Planners. It was from Blue Sky, and had enough room for me to write lesson stuff AND keep up with my busy life and appointments and insert handouts from my school. I basically hacked it make my own Teacher Planner. I’ll show you how to do this around Pre-Planning and show you the planner via a Youtube Review.  I did not use this with fidelity. Next year I WILL. And I will also GET TO WORK WITH ENOUGH TIME TO UPDATE IT!!!! Really that would help keep me organized.

5.  I was a Grade Level Chair this school year. If I am one next year I will definitely keep a hard copy of my Agenda, Meeting Notes, and Minutes I submitted to the Assistant Principal. I had electronic copies but had I kept copies of this it would have made my end of the year Teacher Portfolio set up 10X EASIER!!!! I also would have made contact with teachers that taught my grade but did not have a Planning Period that allowed them to come to our meetings. They had their own blended grade level meeting but I still feel that should have touched base.

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4. So…The Teacher Portfolio. I got all of the points on my End of the Year Individual Professional Development Plan. But that meeting was one of the most stressful ever. Partly because of scheduling and partly because I did not prep along the way. I will definitely build my Teacher Portfolio along the way and possibly do an e-portfolio. Whichever direction I choose, I will show you how to do this. 

3. We use the FOCUS system in my district so I would put my Parent Contact in the “Classroom Log” section. I know how to print out all Classroom Log entries from me for the year, but it’s a REALLY BIG PDF. I would have made a sheet that I used to document Parent Contact PER QUARTER, PER CLASS PERIOD/SECTION this would have made my life easier when any admin requested my contact logs.

2. We WILL USE NOTEBOOKS NEXT SCHOOL YEAR. I will do notebook checks. I get it now. I know how they will be set up. I’ll go through what the “Notebook” looks like later this summer. 7th Graders lose EVERYTHING.THE NOTEBOOK WILL NEVER EVER EVER Leave my room. This concept was new to me because I taught older high school students previously. They might have had messy bookbags, but it was organized chaos, and they knew where their stuff was even if I didn’t. Middle Schoolers want YOU TO KNOW where their stuff is/was/will be. If I had a dollar for each time a child said I lost their work, made them check their bag for it, and then they found it, I WOULD BE RICH.  

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1. I would have provided Make-Up Work in a student-friendly format. I have a Classroom Website that I use to update parents and students. This was absolute PERFECTION for my high school kiddos. Middle-schoolers? Not so much. 4th Quarter I put together a While You Were Out Bulletin Board and it’s pretty cool. I’ll make some modifications.

You can fully expect pictures of the best of what I liked about my Classroom that I will keep and What I will do differently. 

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Classroom, Uncategorized

Open Letter to All Teachers Everywhere

Hello! I am Natasha Pachecker, and I am entering my 4th year teaching. In that time I have taught 6-grade levels and this ride has been exciting, terrifying, stressful, and extremely rewarding. Teaching requires so much of a person. You rise early (sometimes after staying up prepping), then you stay late. You then have personal obligations that bleed into the professional ones that creep up moment by moment. Teaching is not a job that you can “check out” of every day. Your mind is constantly roaming.

Although I am not as experienced as many, I do have an ever expanding skill set that I would love to share. If I can help others keep the little flames they teach each day bright, I will do everything I can to share the know-love. There are organizations in our schools to step in the gap for basic needs our students may be lacking. There are clubs to keep them safe and help them with homework. There is additional support for parents. Where is all of the off campus, visible, support/help/shoulder to cry on for the teachers? Everyone wants things of us, but it is difficult to get someone to tell us how. As I have been in that place of frustration, I know what it is like, and from time to time I go back and visit.

I also honestly created this Blog out of a need I felt. It was difficult for me to find and relate to someone out on the web, that was transparent about the struggles involved with being a teacher. Sure, there are a ridiculous number of extremely talented DIY, classroom decor, Lesson Planning gurus–but where were the people like me? Did those people actually struggle day to day at their schools? I mean, come on, they obviously have very busy lives but how do they maintain? This is what I want to share. How I maintain, and I would love for you to join me and help open up the conversation.

I am most anxious about being a help and being consistent with this blogging thing.

I am most excited for the journey to come.

Here’s to the Future.

Love,

Mrs. P