December 6

Self-Care for Teachers


Let’s talk teacher stress and self-care. That, along with Social Emotional Learning, are hot buzzwords right now in education. Teachers have stopped being content area experts delivering instruction and are now expected to be full time counselors for students. It has all gotten to be too much.

By now we have all seen the gargantuan lists of impossible teacher duties, very few of which have anything to do with actual teaching. We have also seen the statistics on teacher burn out and those leaving the profession in droves.

So what do you do when leaving is not an option? How do we take care of ourselves because we all know that if we don’t take care of ourselves first, we cannot take care of others? You know, that whole “put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you”?


Here are some tips and tricks you can complete right at school, many (not all) of them in the classroom.

#1) Leave school on time. We hear this all the time and typically roll our eyes at the prospect of walking out when the last bell rings. I’m telling you. There is absolutely nothing that cannot wait until the next day. Nothing. The day will come, and the day will go with or without that “one last task” checked off the list or not. Leave. Go home.

#2) Write it down. As new tasks arise throughout the day, write them down and come back to them later. You get an email with a question or task or yet another meeting. Instead of trying to fit one more thing into your hectic day, stop for three seconds and write it down. Then move on with whatever you were doing. Keep a notebook on your desk for these things. Don’t let the interruptions and ever increasing list of things to do interrupt your flow. Then when you do get a minute to look at the list, you can prioritize (or more often than not, reprioritize) and check them off.

#3) Stop and Listen. When you are deep into that three part lesson and feel yourself exactly on track and in the groove, a student will throw you off and ask an off the wall question that stops you right in your tracks. Occasionally, we must stop our lessons and talk with our students. Really listen to what they are saying. Make them listen to each other. Oftentimes these are the greatest lessons and make the best memories for both of you. The lesson will be there to pick up again when the time is right. Sometimes we all need a detour to gain a sharper perspective. And that’s okay.


#4) Hot bath. Make it a habit and take one a few times a week. Take the time for yourself. Force yourself to run the water, add the bubbles, light the candles, pour yourself a relaxing beverage. Then get in (without electronics!!), close your eyes, and r-e-l-a-x….

#5) Keep bedtime consistent. Set an alarm or reminder that it is bedtime. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day, work, spouses, kids, schedules, etc. that we can forget to go to bed. Next thing you know, it’s midnight and you are just crawling under the covers. Be purposeful about bedtime. Train your body to rest.

#6) Be purposefully grateful. Think of three things you are grateful for and say them to yourself BEFORE getting  out of bed each day. If you can start your brain each morning in a place of gratefulness, the rest of the day will follow.

#7) Eat lunch. Separate yourself from the work that surrounds you and the students who hound you. Leave your room if you need to or at least shut and lock your door. Cover the little window. Do not let anyone in. Except your warrior tribe that helps you hold it all together. Don’t work through lunch “this one time” as that becomes a habit. A very negative, bad habit.

#8) Acts of kindness. Be intentional in showing your appreciation for others. Doing so is automatically reciprocal to your own well being. Write a positive note (signed or anonymous) to a coworker or student. Leave it in their mailbox or on their desk. Watch how they respond. Send home a positive email to a student’s parent. Kindness is multiplied…never divided.

Small breaks you can take right at school

* Listen to your favorite songs

* Tell someone “I love you”

* Write about how you feel

* Put yourself in timeout

* Look at artwork

* Write a compliment to yourself on a sticky note and post it at your desk

* Learn to say no

* Phone a friend

* Pop some bubble wrap

* Wear comfy clothes

* Take a quick walk around the building (inside or out)

* Take a couple extra minutes of alone time in the restroom

* Meditate in complete silence for 5 minutes

* Practice a few yoga poses

* Focus on taking five deep, cleansing breaths

* Color. Keep a coloring book and your favorite coloring utensil handy 

* Send a happy text to your favorite person

* Watch a short motivational video

Take care of yourselves, my friends, for you will be replaced before your obituary hits the news.

November 10

Corralling the Chaos During the Holidays

As we begin to skid wildly into the holiday madness known as November and December in the high school classroom, teachers don their adventure hats and take their stances before the restless masses of students. We all know what’s coming once the sugar high of Halloween madness begins, and we must do all we can to keep this academic train planted firmly on the rails of education. A bit much? Not if you’re the one in the front of the classroom attempting to keep all 145+ (or more) students engaged and focused on a daily basis.

So what do we do? How do we keep the kids engaged in academia when their minds and attention are anywhere but what you are attempting to teach them? (And that doesn’t even count the numerous classroom interruptions this time of year, so teaching an intensely focused unit is pretty much out the window.)

Well I’m here to help. Below are five of my very favorite go-to lessons and activities to help keep your high school students engaged in the classroom during the holiday build up. NOTE: Some of these are paid resources indicated by the dollar sign next to the link, while others are FREE indicated by the large F next to the link. All paid resources are less than $4.00.


#1) Blackout Poetry (Long’s Learners) $

This assignment can be used at any time alongside existing units of study or as a stand alone activity. Students are given a page from a book. Yes, you must muster the strength to deface and tear up an actual book in order to complete this one. I use books that the library no longer wants and are giving away to clear their shelves for new books. I have also used books from my own classroom library that students have “lovingly” read and returned in not so great shape. I suppose you could make copies of book pages and print them off as well. However, I find that giving each student a different page from a book allows for more diverse poems.

Students are asked to skim the page and circle words that pop out to them. They then go back and “black out” the rest of the page so to speak leaving behind the newly found poem as well as their artwork. My students love this one and typically ask for additional pages to create more.

#2) Pass Back Story (Long’s Learners) FREE

This one is always a class favorite as well. I typically place students in rows or small groups with desks in a circle. Everyone starts with their own piece of notebook paper with their name at the top. I give everyone in the room the same sentence starter to write on their page (see ideas below). I set the timer for 2 minutes as students quietly begin to write their story. At the end of the 2 minutes, students stop right where they are…middle of a sentence, middle of a word, middle of a letter. It doesn’t matter. They stop and pass their paper to the person on their right. I give students one minute to read what is on their paper, set the timer for 2 more minutes, and students continue the story on the page before them. They repeat this process until either their original paper is returned to them or I ask them to conclude the story before them and return the paper to the original owner. Then we read the stories out loud. I have never once been disappointed in the hilarity that ensues as a result of this fun writing activity. Students don’t even know they are learning as they write, and I’m not about to tell them!

Possible sentence starters:

The holiday break had just started when…

It was a dark and stormy night on the farm…

I turned the corner and couldn’t believe my eyes…

It didn’t seem like such a bad idea at the time…


#3) Cartoon Obituaries (Long’s Learners) $

Students will write an epitaph and an obituary for a cartoon character. I include certain items that must be included in their writing. This assignment includes directions, a rubric, and a tombstone for them to use. This assignment could also be used for any fictional character that has been studied in class.

#4) Micro fiction Stories (Laura Randazzo) $

This one is exactly as you would imagine. Students are given a genre and instructed to write a complete story (including certain elements) using only two sentences. Students are forced to examine their diction, style, a sentence structure when trying to convey an entire story using only two sentences.

#5) Character Christmas/Holiday Shopping (by Presto Plans) FREE

This one is a fun one to keep students engaged as they are asked to make a short shopping list for a character either of their own choosing or one that has been studied in class. Students must come up with a gift they would buy their character and then list the reasons why that would make the perfect gift for them. It causes students to analyze characters more deeply.

What other ideas do you have for corralling the chaos in your high school classrooms?

September 29

First Chapter Friday

So I do this thing in my 11th/12th grade high school ELA classes that I’m sure many of you do too called First Chapter Friday.

It’s exactly as you are probably imagining. I start the class by gaining the students’ attention, and then I read the first chapter(-ish) of a book to them. They love it for many reasons, and the results have been fantastic. I tell them that it’s been a long time since they have had “carpet time” or “story time” in class, and I think it is long overdue. They close their devices and focus solely on the story. And the most magical of magical things happens.

* whispers in a hushed voice*

They are quietly listening and hanging on to my every word.

It’s stunning really. And at the end of nearly every chapter read, they respond in the same way. “What happens next?!” “Can I get that book please?”

I have had students who have requested to borrow a book that other teachers have exclaimed about them, “So and so?! I didn’t even know he/she COULD read!”


And the next Friday is the same way. “Hey Mrs. Long. It’s Friday. You know what that means?!” I play dumb and insert a sarcastic comment letting them tell me…


Here are the (completely unsponsored) links to the books I have used thus far this year.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

Anything But Ordinary by Valerie Hobbs

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Scythe by Neal Shusterman


In the YA fiction section, I currently have Jason Reynolds, Kwame Alexander, Nic Stone, Tomi Adeyemi, Rainbow Rowell, and others in my classroom library ready to go.

In the nonfiction section, I currently have several biographies of famous people on standby (Michelle Obama, Trevor Noah, Laura Bush, and other lesser known people who have compelling stories to share).

Any ideas of books I should add to my list? What are you reading?