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Featured School Psychology

Trial and Error

June 19, 2017

You’ve probably all heard the saying if at first you don’t succeed, try again.  While I’m sure that’s true at any point in your career, I feel it’s more applicable in the beginning.  I remember when I was in graduate school I was full of all of these ideas, hopes, and dreams of what all I could do as a school psychologist.  I was almost about to burst in anticipation!  When guest speakers would come into class they would caution us about doing too much in our first few years.  They recommended we just put our efforts into getting to know the teachers, staff, students, and individual needs in our school.  Just get great at the basics is what they would tell us.  Still in my optimistic and naive brain I thought I can do it all my first year!

In my first year I did do a couple extras, but I quickly found out just how much effort and time doing the basics really required.  As my second year of being a fully licensed school psychologist on my own is coming to an end, I am more realistic about what I can truly fit in to my day.  However, I am more confident in the basics and now they aren’t taking quite as much time.  I am optimistic in the future that I can slowly add and revise my practice and services each year.  For example, next year I plan to start a life skills class at one of my school’s after school program.  I also want to create more professional development presentations for my teachers and staff even though I get so nervous to speak publicly!

All of this is to say your first few years are all trial and error, and I believe that’s normal.  Be kind to yourself- don’t give up and don’t beat yourself down.  I’d rather do the basics well and cautiously than to over extended myself during my first few years. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.  Sometimes, especially during the first year, it can be tempting to want to appear like you know it all, but the only way to grow and improve is to learn and ask questions.

The first few years, at least for me, were filled with ups and downs.  It’s important to not let the down times burn you out.  You need to learn to accept that even with the best intentions you will make some mistakes, but rather than beating yourself up over it- learn from it. Use it to prepare for the next time that situations arises.  Also, don’t forget you are a human with a personal life.  You have to take care of yourself and do the things you enjoy aside from your job in order to be the best you at work.

While real life is often very different than what you imagined, try to never lose sight of why you are doing this.  What got you started? What was your goal?  What did you dream about? What type of impact did you want to make?  If you stay connected to this, then you can make small manageable changes along the way to get you closer to this dream you’ve envisioned for so long.

Classroom Management Featured New Teacher

Behavior Management Boosters

May 19, 2017

As the weather gets warmer and the sun begins to shine the only thing on my students’ mind is summer vacation. Except the only problem is… summer vacation is still weeks away! Summer has been on my students’ mind since the first day of March and behavior management hasn’t been as easy as it once was back in the fall. While I still rely on my old tricks, I have added a few new fun things to keep my kids motivated to make good choices every day.

Score Board 

In my past posts, I shared how I use Whole Brain Teaching in my classroom (check out the post here) and one of the easiest behavior management techniques in the book “Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids” is called the Scoreboard. The Scoreboard is SO simple and effective. Each day I draw a T-Chart on my white board, one side is the happy side the other is the sad side. The goal is to end the day with more happy points than sad points…that’s it!

Throughout the day I award happy points and sad points depending on what I see. Are students talking out of turn? They earn a sad point! Are students following directions the first time asked? They earn a positive Point! The trick is to keep the score close to keep them on edge 🙂 In addition to tallying points, I always have a small incentive on the line like extra recces or Go-Noodle time. This small reward doesn’t take a lot of time or money, but is an extra way to reward good behavior.

VIP Bucket

All over Instagram I saw teachers using a “VIP Table” to award students for good behavior and thought this would be perfect for my classroom….if only I had the space. While I don’t have room to create a separate VIP table I was able to modify the idea to fit the needs of my classroom. Instead of a VIP table I filled a shower caddy with Mr. Sketch markers, stickers, mechanical pencils, and all of those extra Target Dollar Spot erasers we all hoard.

The VIP bin is awarded to a student each afternoon and is taken to the student’s desk to be used the next day. Instead of choosing a student at the end of the day, I draw a student’s name and it is a secret that is revealed at dismissal. If the student made good choices, they earn the VIP award, but f they don’t I do not reveal the name and their name is put back in the drawing. My student’s love to guess who is going to be VIP and the privilege of using my fancy supplies is enough to keep even my toughest kids motivated to stay on track.

What are some ways that you boost your behavior management system at the end of the year?

Featured Homeschool

3 Ideas for Wrapping Up the Homeschool Year

May 11, 2017

First of all, can you believe we are in the month of May and talking about the END of the school year? I don’t know about you, but this school year has absolutely flown by for our family!

It’s about this time of year that I start trying to figure out exactly how we’re going to wrap up the year. Now, as a side note, we often do some school work and review material over the summer months, but we definitely transition from the more structured routine – we all need a break!

Since we homeschool, there’s not that final day that we have to get out the door and to the school by 8am. There’s no final bell that officially signals the start of summer. And while I am sometimes saddened by the fact that my kids won’t be a part of huge classroom parties, yearbook signings, and school-wide celebrations, I still love celebrating all that my kids have accomplished during the year and I want them to be able to participate in that summer excitement.

So, over the past few years we’ve come up with some awesome activities to celebrate the year and signal the start of summer! Here are our top 3 for bringing a whole lotta fun to the end of your school year – even if you’re not in a classroom.

1. Plan a Summer-Themed Field Trip

Since you will be jumping into summer, why not celebrate by going somewhere that screams summer? Plan a trip to the beach, a water park, a theme park ,or even the zoo! Your kids will not only anticipate these events, but it will be the culmination of your year. And the beauty of being a homeschool family is that you can actually plan it on your last day of school, you don’t have to coordinate buses, chaperones, permission slips, etc, and you are not locked into certain time parameters. As a former teacher, believe me, it’s a beautiful thing!

2. Plan an End of the Year Party

If you’re a part of a co-op, this is probably the simplest idea. As a group, agree upon a date to wrap things up and plan a party. This can be at your co-op’s normal location, a local park, a kid-friendly eatery, or even someone’s home. We usually coordinate a picnic lunch and present the kids with an of end of the year certificate, character award, or achievement award (it’s varied from year to year). Some years we have planned games and/or activities, other years it has just been a free for all! Either way, the kiddos love it, and it most certainly helps to ring in summer! And even if you’re not in a co-op, invite some of your kids friends over for an afternoon and celebrate with them – I’m sure they wouldn’t want to turn down an opportunity to celebrate the coming of summer!

3. Plan a Review Day

Now, I know what you’re thinking: a review day, fun? Yes! But the key is how you review! Think about games and activities that you student really enjoys. Then, modify those activities to incorporate some of the material you have learned over the course of the year. Does your student love board games? Then, play the game, but instead of just rolling the dice or spinning a spinner, give them opportunities to answer questions and earn extra spins, jump extra spaces, etc. If you’re not sure how to incorporate your curriculum into games, just type “learning games” or “review games” into Pinterest and you’ll see more ideas that you probably ever wanted! What I love about this idea is that not only does it bring a great deal of fun into your day, but it truly gives the students the opportunity to see just how much they have learned and how far they have come. My only word of caution with this option is this: be sure the material you’re reviewing is truly review. We want to celebrate your student, not leave them feeling deflated by being unable to answer most of the questions. Then, cap off your game time with a special meal or trip to the ice cream shop.

Thinking about trying one of these ideas or have one of your own? I’d love to hear how it goes! Comment below with your best end of the homeschool year celebrations!

Featured Math

Number Lines: a Multipurpose Tool

May 9, 2017

I have to admit, by the end of each school year I have looked at number lines for so long that I am ready to swear them off for good. Over the years I have found so many ways to use a number line in my classroom- it seems like we can apply a number line strategy to any skill! The number line has become an essential tool in my classroom. My students have a number line on their name tags, in their math toolboxes, and one at home that they made to help them with homework. We also have so much fun making our own number lines for different skills throughout the year! 

Number Lines for Addition and Subtraction

This is probably the most well-known way to use a number line in an elementary classroom. Students can use their fingers to physically add and subtract numbers. This tactile and visual tool helps them to understand the process of adding and taking away. There are also number lines with intervals of 2, 3, 4, etc. that are created to aid in skip counting. These are wonderful tools for primary level math students. Bonus: skip counting number lines are GREAT for multiplication table practice!

Number Lines for Fractions

Fractions make up a large part of the third grade math curriculum. Under the umbrella of fractions, we teach comparing fractions and finding equivalent fractions. This is a great opportunity to break out those number lines again! In addition to fraction tiles, fraction circles, and other hands-on materials, number lines provide a clear example of how different fractions compare.

Number Lines for Elapsed Time

If you’re like me, just thinking about teaching elapsed time is enough to make you want to run screaming from your classroom. It is by far my least favorite math skill in 3rd grade. I search each year for new ways to teach it, and using a number line can be a helpful tool for students who need to see the breakdown of hours and minutes in equal groups, as shown below. Many students are starting at just being able to tell time on a clock, and using a number line is a great way for them to understand the concept of elapsed time.

Number Lines for Rounding

My class had a particularly hard time with rounding at the beginning of this year. Cue the number line! We worked with both straight and curved number lines so that they could “see the rounding” and make sense of it. We used paper number lines, but we also made some out of jump ropes and clothespins, adding a physical movement element to our rounding lessons. One of their favorites: making “roads”- number lines on sentence strips- then using toy cars to show the rounding. To do this, make a hill out of your sentence strip, with the midpoint being the tip of the hill, then you place the car on the number you’re rounding and let go. Whichever side it rolls down on is the number it rounds to.

The number line can be applied to almost any skill! There are countless resources online about using number lines to teach math concepts. How do you use number lines in your classroom?

Classroom Community Featured New Teacher

Creating a Culture of Kindness in the Classroom

May 7, 2017

As a first year teacher, I was blown away by how much time I needed to dedicate to teaching social skills in the classroom. For (most) adults the concepts of kindness, fairness, and respect are no brainers. But, as I spent more and more time with my students I began to realize that these habits do not always come naturally kids.

I was nervous to dive into the world of teaching social skills in the classroom because I was worried about what I would put on a lesson plan, but after a few months I decided to put my worries aside and made a change. Sure, social skill concepts don’t show up on standardized tests but in order to make my classroom a positive and inclusive place, some explicit social skill instruction was necessary! With the help of my school social worker, I developed some short lesson plans and classroom routines to creature a culture of kindness in my third-grade classroom.

To fit in my new lessons, I used my morning meeting time and reading block to help my students form connections with each other and read books that show characters dealing with common elementary school issues. Here are a few of my favorite activities that I did with my students this year. I did these with third graders, but they could easily be adapted for any elementary age classroom!

Making Connections

To help my students make connections with their classmates I challenged my students to find something in common with someone they don’t talk to on a daily basis. This activity was simple but very meaningful because my students realized that they have a lot more in common with their classmates than they thought they did. Many new friendships formed as a result of taking the time to form connections with classmates.
Juice Box Bully- To help teach my students about bullying I read aloud the book “The Juice Box Bully” by Bob Sornson. This book does an excellent job of showing children how to stand up to bullies. At the end of the book, there is a promise that students can follow to prevent bullying. After reading the story my students asked if they could take the pledge (all on their own!) and we copied the pledge and the students signed their name to hold them accountable for their actions.

Shout Out Wall

As a class, my students brainstormed positive behaviors that you can display in the classroom. They came up with words like respectful, hardworking, and kind. I displayed these words on a blank wall in the classroom. Throughout the day my students write “shout outs” to students who are displaying one of these positive behaviors. At the end of the school day, I read the shout outs to the class and the kids get to keep their note. This has become their favorite part of the school day and they BEG me to read shout outs at the end of the day. I have learned that my kids like being recognized by me for good behavior but they LOVE being recognized by their classmates even more.

Students write “Shout Outs” on sticky notes to recognize their classmates for showing positive behaviors.

Featured Homeschool

5 Things I Can’t Imagine Homeschooling Without

April 14, 2017

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching, and it’s a great time to reflect on things that have worked well and things you might want to tweak for next year. As a homeschooling mom of two boys, we have had some great successes and more than enough flops, but there are a few things that I really don’t think I would have made it without.

So, I’m excited to share my list of 5 things I can’t imagine homeschooling without! Now, this list is really two-fold. It’s an opportunity to express incredible gratitude to the people and resources we’ve been given, but I also hope it will give you some insight into things that will make your homeschooling experience easier – especially if it’s something you’re thinking about trying next year.

So, here goes….

  1. A Community of Other Homeschooling Families

I really can’t imagine trying to do this on my own. And as I talked to other homeschooling moms, this was consistently one of the top things on their lists. On days when I’m completely exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling like I’ve failed the kids, being able to talk to, be encouraged by, and simply be reminded that you’re not alone by these other mommas always re-energizes me. Not only has this community blessed me, but it has given my kids countless opportunities to develop friendships, participate in large group activities, and grow in their social and problem-solving skills. We attend a weekly co-op with 9 other families (more on this coming soon!), and it is truly the highlight of our week! I can NOT imagine trying to tackle this alone, and having other homeschooling families nearby has made a tremendous difference.

So, if you’re thinking about homeschooling, look for ways to connect. Are there other families in your community who are currently or will be homeschooling? What are some ways you can connect with them? Look into starting a co-op of your own (again, more specifics on this will be coming soon). Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – it’s well worth the effort!

  1. Our Educational Supervisor/Teacher

We homeschool through a public charter school, specifically designed for homeschool families. Each family is assigned a personalized learning teacher who helps get your curriculum, checks in on each student’s progress, helps parents with planning and learning strategies, and takes care of ALL the paperwork/legal side of things. This is such a huge blessing! I don’t have to worry about making sure everything is documented and submitted to the state correctly. She totally takes care of all of it – gathering the information and materials she needs at our meetings. Furthermore, she conducts assessments throughout the year (so it’s not just Mom doing it), to help ensure we’re on track and give advice on things we can work on.

If you’re looking into homeschooling, research what is available in your area. Is there a school you can go through? What resources and/or services can they provide? What kind of assistance will you receive? Homeschooling is so much more than just doing some activities with your kids at home, so the more help you can receive, the easier the process will be.

  1. A Supportive Spouse

Being a homeschool mom is a pretty thankless job. I certainly get “paid” in plenty of hugs, kisses, and smiles, but when it comes to verbal affirmation for the job I’m doing, it’s pretty few and far between. It’s primarily because no one else sees the time, effort, and energy I’m pouring into this day in and day out. However, the one person who does see it is my husband. He sees the planning, the progress the kids are making, the projects, the organization, and coordination, and he sees me do it day after day. He’s the one who takes the kids to the park just because he knows I need a break. He’s the one who cleans up after dinner because he knows I’ve been “on” all day. And he’s the one who affirms and encourages me when I feel like giving up. He does this because he knows the sacrifice I’m making to homeschool our kids. And I know I couldn’t do it without him.

So, if you’re thinking homeschool may be in your future, take plenty of time to discuss this with your spouse. Ask the tough questions to ensure you’re on the same page. Now, that’s not to say you can’t homeschool if you’re a single parent, but if you are married, you want this to be a joint decision. Because if it’s not, it will be incredibly divisive.

  1. A Daily/Weekly Routine

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Part of the benefit of being a homeschool family is the flexibility you have in your schedule. Flexibility, yes, total freedom, no. You still have material you need to cover, there are still skills students need to practice consistently, and it’s just not going to get done if you don’t establish some type of daily and weekly routine. It doesn’t need to be planned to the minute, but having a game plan for each day of the week makes a tremendous difference. Ours is simple – we have a consistent start time, we almost always begin with a song or two, followed by Bible. We then move on to language arts before having a snack and brain break time. We then move on to math, followed by history, science, art, or other activity. Now, this schedule varies a bit day to day (like on the days we have our co-op), but for the most part, the boys know what our school day looks like – and it definitely helps me on the planning end. It’s amazing how well kids respond to routine, and I’m so thankful other homeschool moms taught me about the importance of this consistency early on!

So, make a game plan. Decide how often and on what days you need to teach each subject (for example, we don’t hit science every day, but language arts we do). Think about how long you’ll need for each subject – and don’t forget to include brain and movement breaks! Then, put together a tentative schedule for your week. Know that there will be some flex in it, but bringing some structure into your week will help everything go more smoothly. And by the way, don’t feel like you need to go from 8am-3pm because that’s what your local school is doing. Do what works for your family, especially if you’ve got younger kiddos.

  1. Peace for the Storms

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, is my faith in Christ. Homeschooling is hard – much more of a sacrifice than I ever imagined. Honestly, there have been days when I just want to give up. However, my faith in the Lord has given me strength, wisdom, hope, encouragement, and purpose as each day I strive to fulfill what we believe He has called our family to do. Not only does He bring peace to the storm and strength to the weak, but Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness, sacrifice, and love. And it is his example I seek to follow.

While the above five things are not any type of curriculum, school supply, or even organizational system, I can’t imagine homeschooling without them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! What are your must-haves for homeschooling? Leave a comment below – I’d love to connect with you!

Culture Featured

People First

April 3, 2017

I am a wife.  I am a daughter.  I am a dog mom.  I am a friend.  I am a School Psychologist.  While I am all of these; I am so much more.  I cannot be defined by one thing or one word.  There are several people in the world who have the same “I am” statements; however, if you were to meet all of us, you would soon find how alike, yet different we are.

People First Language

This is why it is so important we use people first language.  You may have heard the saying “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.”  While individuals on the Autism Spectrum have a common set of characteristics, they also have a wide range of strengths, weaknesses, needs, wants, and interests.  This is why saying comments like “he’s autistic” can be so hurtful and harmful.

Just as if you were only to tell people I am a wife, they would have no knowledge of all the other aspects of who I am.  All of my individuality would be lost; I would be lost.  I would be solely defined by one part of who I am.  Who wants that?

Almost one in every five people have a disability.  This is why it is so important to use people first language not only at school but at home, the mall, the grocery story, and everywhere you go in your life.  When you put the person first it helps acknowledge their needs and leads to understanding, but it also helps eliminate generalizations and discrimination.  This language is part of a bigger movement to help change the way people with disabilities have been historically represented and treated to a more inclusive and accurate portrayal.

If you want to be known for who you are versus all the labels assigned to you, then use people first language.  For example, instead of saying “he is Dyslexic” say “he has been diagnosed with Dyslexia.”  So remember the golden rule to treat others how you would like to be treated- as a person first.

Featured Motherhood Motivation

Living on a Teacher’s Salary

March 24, 2017

Living on a teacher’s income can be tough. Whether your income is in addition to your spouse’s or you’re living off of one teacher salary like we are, making things happen can be a struggle. But check out that keyword – struggle. Not an impossibility. So today I want to offer some of the ways that our family has made cuts that have enabled us to live off one teacher’s salary without barely making ends meet.

  1. Meal Planning – The way you grocery shop and plan your meals can make a huge impact on your budget. I spend way too much money if I show up to the store without a plan, or if I make our weekly menu based off of cravings. You would be amazed at how much you can save by planning your week’s meals based off of your favorite store’s sales and only sticking to those items.
  2. Cable Alternatives – We are in such a great time to find alternatives to paying monthly for cable! Check out a streaming device and explore the world of Netflix, Hulu, etc. We haven’t missed it a bit!
  3. Health Insurance Alternatives – I didn’t think this would be possible. But there are some great alternatives out there for healthcare coverage! Using my husband’s ISD insurance was not going to be affordable for us at all. Fortunately, we were able to sign our daughter and me up for a healthcare ministry that makes way more sense for our family.
  4. Student Debt – This was another budget buster we didn’t think we could get away from. While my student loans are sticking around, repayment options like “income-based repayment” are available and soooo helpful! I would encourage you to check them out with your lender!
  5. Mortgage – There are so many details involved in this cut. But to make a long story short, my husband and I are in the middle of a “cash-out refinance”. This will allow us to use a portion of the equity we’ve gained in our home to pay off things like student debt. This is definitely something to chat about with your mortgage lender.

These are just half of the cuts and ways we’ve found to save every month! When you really crunch the numbers and search for areas you’re willing to cut back, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you’d like to chat or want to see the other ways we’ve saved, I’d love for you to visit my blog at!

Classroom Community Featured Morale

Our Words Build Their Worlds

March 20, 2017

“I am a leader! I am a champion! I am a world-changer! I am number one! I am so special! I am so loved! I know Mrs. Gardner loves me! And I love her, too!”

My students hold up their “number ones” and say this at the end of every. single. day. I believe this is one of the most important things I do as a teacher.

I got the idea from a pastor at our church who started having the middle and high schoolers say it after service. I knew as soon as I heard it that I had to implement it in my own classroom.

It’s more than just words. Words are never, EVER just words. Words build worlds. These words specifically build my students’ worlds. After just a few weeks, when I say “Number ones up!”, before I even say the first line for them to repeat, they’ve already started. If I accidentally miss a line, they are QUICK to let me know.

That’s exactly what I want.

I don’t just want them to say it; I want it stuck in their brains. Once it’s stuck there, it starts to get stuck in their heart. Once it’s in their heart, they’ll never forget it. Even more- they start to BELIEVE it. No one can convince them that they’re NOT a leader or a champion, a world-changer, or loved in the future.

I was in my principal’s office a few weeks ago and on my way out, I passed a wall in her office where she displays notes and art from students in our school. Right there, front and center of all of those notes, I read the words, “Mrs. Price, you are a leader, a champion, a world changer, so special, and so loved.” It brought tears to my eyes. One of my former students had this planted in their hearts and passed it along to encourage someone else!!

I have the words on my wall in my room so my students can not only say it but read it and see it as a reminder all day long. It’s in my TPT store as a freebie if you’d like it for your own room! Can you imagine what our world would be like if every student in America truly believed this about themselves?!

Featured Interview New Teacher

How I Landed My First Teaching Job: Interview Tips & Tricks

March 16, 2017

When I graduated from college in April 2016 I was terrified about getting a job. My home state, Michigan, is known for lacking in quality teaching jobs. With a degree in Elementary Education and an Early Childhood Education endorsement, I had a few options but the scary part was actually landing an interview!

It took a few months of silent waiting before I got the first phone call. But with patience, the interviews began to line up and all that was left to do was prepare. To get ready for my interviews I gathered my important paperwork, assembled a portfolio, and put together an outfit I would feel confident in. I don’t consider myself an expert on interviewing by any means, but of the four interviews I went on that summer, I was offered every job. So something I did must have worked!

Important papers

At every interview, I brought the following documents. I never actually needed to provide them on the spot, but I felt more confident having them in case I was asked for a copy.

  • Resume – at least 5 copies to distribute to the interview panel if asked
  • Teaching certificate
  • College transcript
  • Letters of recommendation – I have these stapled to my resume. My letters are from my college advisor, student teaching advisor, and my student teaching cooperating teacher

Personal Portfolio 

My teaching portfolio is a binder that contains lesson plans, awards, letters of recommendation, notes from students, and resume information. I keep all of these things organized in a simple three ring binder. In the interview, I referred to my binder to show examples of my lesson plans and to share my accomplishments outside of the classroom. From my experience, having a portfolio is not necessary but it makes me feel more comfortable when I am interviewing. It is also a conversation piece and a great way to highlight skills.

My Attire

In the classroom, I dress very casually! But regardless of how casual teaching jobs can be, I chose to dress to impress. I also was interviewing in the summer so weather played a factor in my outfit choices.

I have worn the following outfits (and wore them with confidence each time)!

  • Black shift dress and colorful blazer
  • Fit & flare dress with a colorful cardigan
  • Black dress pants and a green blouse

With each outfit I wore heels – I’m 5’3” and the heels give me confidence! I also wore a statement piece of jewelry and all of the women on my interview panels complimented me. The final touch to my outfit was a large structured purse to hold my portfolio and resumes. I also carried a water bottle, some back-up makeup, and a lint roller to freshen up before I headed into my interview location.

Although I can’t consider myself an interviewing expert, I think the key to success is being prepared and confident. By bringing the right things (e.g a lot of resume copies and a professional portfolio) I felt prepared to answer questions and talk myself up. Also, picking the right outfit gave me the confidence boost I needed to show off my best self.