10 Ways to build relationships with your students

If you are struggling with classroom management, the most important thing to remember is to build those relationships. Middle school students are strange little creatures….It’s almost like they are…Human. So with that in mind, here’s what I suggest. 

1. I have found the most important thing to do is remember what YOU were like at that age. Look at your old yearbooks. Show them to your students. Then get on to the next step and….

2. Have a good laugh! Kids love to laugh and to know you have a sense of humor. 

3. The next step goes right along with laughing…..It’s PLAY. Find some way to play with your kids. Too much of life is serious. Let kids enjoy some time to play.

4. Assign projects that allow for kids to insert their personalities into them. Then…

5. Ask them about what you see. Then…

6. Remember those special things about them and bring them back up later. 

7. Do a home visit now and then to really understand where your kids come from and how they live. 

8. Give them special privileges, such as eating or listening to music, that you can use to motivate them instead of jumping straight to the discipline plan. 

9. Treat them with respect even when they aren’t giving any. Your example may be the only one they see.

10. And finally….. remember that they are much less likely to learn anything from you if they hate you or stay mad at you. So taking the time to build these relationships is truly a great investment. 


Rapid Reset

In yesterday’s post, I discussed how I have discovered that many of the stresses that come from being a teacher and parent are self-imposed. It was a principal that actually pointed this out to me. Yes, as teachers there are expectations given to us….but the reality is, administration knows we cannot meet them ALL 100% of the time. As a mom, my kids will forgive that I cannot be their entire world. In fact, they will appreciate that I help them create a larger circle of support. In short, it’s time to give myself a break.

Now what about today? How do I face today with optimism and faith? Luckily, I do not have to go far to find the answer. There are so many amazing professionals all around us that are so ready to help. Their advice? Remember that we must work on staying motivated DAILY. There is no magic bullet that will push us through and keep us going for years, months or even weeks on end. One of my favorite methods of getting motivated daily is by using the technique many success books describe as re-framing situations.

Here’s how I re-frame my world. I combine working on gratitude with changing my perspective. Yes, I start VERY small and go minute to minute when I have to, it absolutely changes my mood.


  1. I wake up tired. /I woke UP and my bed is warm and cozy.
  2. My sinuses are still clogged. / I have medications and techniques to           help me make it through the day.
  3. My hubby is hogging the bathroom./ I have INDOOR PLUMBING.
  4. My classes are too full!!/                   My students LOVE to come to my class.
  5. There aren’t enough books./               I have access to computers.
  6. There isn’t enough paper./                   I have a projector.
  7. I feel overwhelmed./                               I am EMPLOYED and can help support my family.

It may sound silly, but it is highly effective and will help you get through your day!! So as we say at Sierra — Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours!!



Let’s get Real– Life as a Teacher & MOM Sucks


Yeah, you heard me! Teaching and being a mom sucks. Every year it’s the same thing! I begin the year with a million great ideas. I may even have weeks, months or even a year’s worth of lesson plans to choose from. I’m great at collecting cool resources. I’m phenomenal at working with “hard” kids. Middle schoolers DON’T scare me. They crack me up. I LOVE my team! My colleagues are amazing and hilarious! We plan together. We eat together. We laugh together… and then…. it happens….every year.

Reality hits. We lose teachers. Class sizes increase while resources decrease. Rules and laws that are DRILLED into our skulls are ignored by the powers that be and evaluations are based on what sometimes turns out to be data completely unrelated to us.

Then there is the personal side. I might be able to ignore or overcome all of the above obstacles. I might even have a few weeks, where my lessons click, my kids engage and things flow along perfectly. I arrive home a bit tired, but still manage to go to the gym a couple days a week. Then that ONE Friday comes when I arrive home and my back aches; the tell-tale sign that I’ve waited too long to take that bathroom break. My kidneys need some TLC. My daughter’s physical therapy appointments take over any extra time I had to go to the gym. My other daughter has performances coming up. I realize I haven’t checked HER backpack in a week. I’m sure by now there’s something growing in there.

The final little bit of internal motivation I have is destroyed as my allergies turn into months worth of sinus problems. I tell myself it’s ok to take days off no matter what the evaluation says, but then I sit down to get a sub. I put the information in the computer and wait. If I’ve waited too long, very often, no one picks up. If I put in too early, but don’t specify a sub….ANYONE picks up and let me tell you, that can be a VERY bad thing. Kids with the wrong subs will misbehave. Kids with the wrong subs can end up being suspended and many students fall behind because they haven’t been able to focus in a chaotic environment. (So there’s that.)

So what’s my point. Do I want this to just be a gripe fest? NO! I want this to be informational and hopefully motivational. I want this blog to be a place where people can come to see that you are NOT alone and the solutions are not to add to your already packed schedule, but rather learn that maybe some of the stresses we face are entirely self-imposed.

Look back at how I got to my breaking point. Teachers get transferred and class size increases. That’s an outside stress. My response is usually to be to be outraged and fight like mad. Fortunately though, that is not my job. Mine is to teach….no matter who or how many. If I just take a deep breath and keep trying…..it won’t necessarily be teacher of the year quality….but I’ll have less stress and keep my job. If powers that be ignore rules and laws….well, then at least I have an argument if they ever call me on something I am unable to accomplish with those scarce resources and overcrowded classes. That does not mean I am not trying or that I’m not an over-achiever in certain areas. It simply means, I have a union to fight for me. I do not need to take that all on.

What about those issues at home? Somehow, I have trained my family that I am the person to take my kids to everything 95-100% of the time. I did that to myself! Somehow I think I need to be at EVERY performance. Maybe I don’t. My parents weren’t at everything and I don’t even remember which things they missed or attended. It was nice to know they would come when they could, but not the end of the world when they couldn’t. It may even be an important lesson to teach my girls that the world does not actually REVOLVE around them. What?

My conclusion? I do actually want something better for myself and my family. I want a job I can control…..not one that controls me. I want to be able to take time to take care of my family and know my employer has my back. I need stability, insurance and retirement. I’d LOVE to have all of these things AND have the satisfaction I get from seeing a kid light up when they see me, or when they beg to stay in my class…..or come back and tell me what they learned….or bring me keepsakes related to content. At home, I need space and time for myself as well as the ability to let things go and realize that most issues are not as big a deal as I make it. How do I get that? This year I will do the one thing I don’t think I have ever done before, I’M GOING TO ASK. I will find that scenario or create it for myself.

To wrap up this first New Year’s post, I’d like to say to my teacher and parenting friends….ONLY FIVE MONTHS LEFT!!





The low down on the rub down!!

Over the last six to eight months, I’ve learned so much about massage and while those who get one regularly already know this, if you are new to massage, you may want to keep these things in mind.

First, a massage really should not hurt. Yes, there may be moments of pain if you are working an area of soreness or injury, but continued pain is NOT a good thing. Speak to your therapist. If something hurts, let them know.

Second, more is not necessarily better. Pressing harder may be what you want a therapist to do, but if you need a specific treatment, deep pressure may not be ideal. In fact, it may very well be counter-productive. Again, communication is the key here. If the therapist is doing something you wonder about, ask them.

Third, you have the right to tell the therapist what you want them to do. In fact, it makes their job easier. If you don’t like your ears to be touched, tell them. If you don’t like your feet to be touched, tell them….kicking them may cause a bit of a strain in your relationship.

Fourth, be sure you are working with a therapist who is flexible and does what is in the client’s best interest. For example, the elderly often need a shorter massage. They may not be able to tolerate lying on the table for a full hour. They may need a chair instead of a table. If you have an injury and just want a specific injury treated, a full hour may not be called for. If the therapist is insisting on hour long appointments and you want shorter sessions, they may not be looking out for you….but for their pocketbook.

Finally, don’t go to get a massage if you are sick…especially if you have a fever. A good therapist will not work on you. They will ask you to reschedule. That may not be what you want to hear, but massage during an acute sickness is generally contraindicated. You may be contagious and the massage may actually make things worse.

Now, I have to let you go….my daughter wants a massage. Have a great week!!!

Old School Perks

I LOVE technology. I really do. One of the reasons I write this blog is to enjoy using technology. HOWEVER, there really are some major perks to sticking with old school. Here are just a few of my favorites:

1. I have never had to call Amazon to fix the wireless connection for my paperback.
2. I’ve never had to reset my newspaper.
3. I don’t have to buy batteries for or recharge my magazines.
4. My hardbacks may be stiffer but not necessarily ruined if I drop them in the bathtub.
5. My phone book doesn’t show me 200 places by the same name in 20 different cities when I only need the local store.
6. I never worried about my landline emitting signals into my brain and causing cancer.
7. That same landline never used to beep and blink at me all night.
8. I never felt I needed to chase my three-year old down to get a book away from her (like I have with my kindle).
9. I never worried that my book was heating up too much while I was reading it.
10. The best perk about a good old fashion book is that I have NEVER had to wrestle my favorite novel away from my children so that I could read it!!!

Calling ALL Villagers!!!

We joke about it. We complain about it. Everyone KNOWS it’s happening, but no one seems to realize that this is what is wrong with our society. We are too dang busy and everyone thinks we all need to have double income families and all the things money can buy. Let me tell you what money cannot and does not buy. It does not buy memories or time we’ve missed with our loved ones. It does not buy back the opportunities we pass up because we have something “better” to do.

I know many people get reflective after a loved one passes, but this is not a new feeling for me. This is really my life’s purpose; looking to create memories for my children and teach them to cherish those memories. When I was a child, I spent weeks not just days with Grandparents and cousins. We had cookouts and get-togethers and traditions that were mandatory for family….not optional. As a teenager, I may have resisted that once or twice, but even then, I took a great deal of comfort in knowing that I had a large number of people to turn to, to count on.

I once heard a story about a band of young elephants that were invading a village and killing off the people. This was very unusual so people began to study it to try and figure out why it was happening. It was happening because the elder elephants had been killed off by hunters. The only way to teach the younger generation was to reintroduce older elephants back into the herds. The elders taught the younger ones respect and how to “behave”. It was what had to happen.

Now we already know as a society that we need our daddy’s to be involved, but what I lament right now is how so many other people just seem to put the responsibility of raising children strictly on the parents. If a child misbehaves, everyone judges the parents instead of trying to help. Whatever happened to the days when people just picked up someone else’s kids just because they enjoy spending time with them. My aunts and uncles did that with me. So did my grandparents, my music teacher, my pastor and his wife….the list goes on and on.

WE parents struggle because it feels like we are doing this all by ourselves. Gone are the days where grandma lived in our house and we could count on that extra pair of loving arms to help with the babies. Now she’s off “doing her thing” or is unable or unwilling to help. Siblings live too far apart or every adult in the family works 24/7. If you stay home with your kids, people stop inviting you places….”because you have the kids”. People stop just dropping by…”because the kids might be napping.” They forget that WE NEED YOU!!! We need each other. The kids need to have more adults around to be examples. Mom’s and Dad’s need more adults around to help us feel human again…not just like servants to the demanding little beings that have invaded our homes.

I feel like one of the SUPER lucky ones most of the time. I have super loving friends, in-laws and step-kids who work to keep the ties strong. Still, I am saddened that my own brother lives 100 miles away and doesn’t try to steal my children….and I really do wish he would. He would be the perfect person to teach them how to fish.

I call on you now Villagers. Think about your loved ones. Think of your nieces, nephews, grandkids, cousins, friends…whomever it might be….steal them for the day. Take them to the movies or just go hang out at their house to be that extra pair of arms. It really does mean the world to them….and their parents.

All I need to know I learned from Spongebob!

2. Never give up!! (Not sure he’ll ever get his boating license.)
3. Be on-time.
4. Love your neighbors….even if they don’t love you.
5. Do your best at whatever you’re doing….even a fry-cook is important.
6. Take care of your equipment….that Spatula is your livelihood.
7. Be absolutely loyal to your friends.
8. Always look on the Brightside.
9. Be creative and even the most mundane tasks can be exciting.
10. And finally, when you dedicate yourself to something, do it completely and your rewards will be great!!!

So now that I’ve finished massage school…..”I’M READY!!!”
Let the fun begin!