How to Help “That” Student

It’s that time of year.  Weeks before state mandated testing.  A couple months shy of summer.  Behavior starts sliding down hill.

Nothing seems to work anymore… except for rewards.  Incentives.  Prizes.

I have picked a few students that I’m determined to help, and recently one in particular.  He knows that he is “hard to handle” and he seems to enjoy living up to the reputation.

He feeds off of attention.  He loves getting a laugh from the class.  At any cost.

I really don’t think his goal in the morning is to wake up and say, “I’m going to make Mrs. Rogers’ lesson really difficult to teach today.”

I don’t see that kid as “out to get me.” What I do see is desperation.  Seeking attention.  Seeking acceptance, even if it means being the class clown when he is actually reading above grade level.

I’m still determined to reach this one particular student.  I’ve tried reasoning with him in the hallway.  Writing encouraging words when I pass back his work.  Quietly correcting him.

Have any of those things worked this year?


In fact, the behavior has escalated to the point where I can’t get through one sentence without an impulsive comment being blurted out.

It may be April, but I’m not done trying with this kid.  There’s still time.

I thought of all the behaviors that I want him to improve.  Instead of me correcting him, I wanted him to be able to be conscious of his own behavior, and correct it himself.

So I turned it into a game.  I call it “Behavior Bingo.”

I created a grid and filled it in with all the behaviors I want him to do, wording them positively.

So instead of, “stop tipping back in your chair, you’re going to fall” I worded it in a positive way, “keep chair flat on floor the whole class.”

Once he marks off 5 in a row, he can choose a prize.  He could earn a prize every day if he wanted to.

I cut it down and taped it in inside his English notebook.  No other students know about it.  I actually told him it only counts if no one knows why you’re doing it.

He was surprised one day to find it on the next page of his journal.  I didn’t say anything to him until after he read over it.

I asked, “Are you up for the challenge?”

He smacked his chair legs down to the ground and drew an X over that square. 

It worked.

And it was fun watching him study the squares and look up with eyes scanning across the room.  I knew he was thinking about what he could cross off next.

He didn’t earn it the first day, since he hadn’t started until half way through class.

Day two, he walked in and started “earning” squares to mark off.  All on his own.  I never said a word.

By the end of class, he awkwardly went over to a classmate and said, “I’m taking your journal for you.”  It was a sweet moment.

I casually dropped a few Jolly Ranchers in his hand as he left the class.

No one noticed.

I had a good day.

He had a good day.

I think we are both looking forward to more good days.

Here’s the print out I made for him.  I just made it with Google Docs.  If he gets to restart with a new board, I think I’ll change the squares to be more challenging.  This is so easy to personalize for students.

behavior bingo


Parents: 28 Reasons to Put your Phone Down

I spent 17 hours and 6 minutes on my phone last week.  9 hours and 5 minutes on social networking.

An average of 2 hours and 25 minutes looking at my phone per day.

7 hours of the 17 on Facebook.  3 and a half on YouTube.  51 minutes texting.  30 minutes using the camera.  16 minutes talking on the phone. 15 minutes on email. 7 minutes on the calculator.

Most of the other time was just spent “checking” apps.

My phone sends me “screen time” alerts and keeps track of my usage.

Looking at the total is embarrassing.  In my defense, I try to use it when the kids go to bed.

But that’s not always true.

I’m showing you all this before I show you what my students had to say.  So you wouldn’t think I’m pointing fingers at other parents.

If anything, I’m pointing the finger at myself.  So much so, that I put a limit on my social networking to 10 minutes a day.

Read on to see why.

I start the new semester in my English class with a poetry unit.

To capture their interest, I show some “spoken word” poetry videos and the students answer questions about the messages of the poems.

This is the third year in a row I’ve done this unit.  This year, the answers seemed different.  Sad.  I don’t know why this year.

The poem called “Look Up” by Gary Turk shows how we spend so much time on social media or on devices in general that we let special moments in our life slip by.  [Sorry for the one potty word, but I think it was for the sake of rhyming.]

Sometimes we pass up opportunities all together.

I play the video, then display the journal prompt:

Make a connection: Do you experience this [people looking down at devices] when you are with your friends and family? How does this affect you?

Here are 28 responses from my 13-year-old students:

  1. It doesn’t feel good when people ignore me from there phone.
  2. My family and I are on our phones all the time and it makes me feel that I missed every moment with them.
  3. It makes me a little mad because you can’t do anything with your friends.
  4. It makes me feel like we are hardly know each other.
  5. My experience with my family is that my parents are always on their phones and they argue a lot and they always argue about stuff on Facebook and I spend time on my phone all the time because I have nothing to do.
  6. I get to watch 30 minutes of Netflix a day.  When they [my parents] get to have their technology themselves all day. It kind of makes me feel worthless.
  7. It makes me feel unwelcome to where we are.
  8. My mom is on her phone most of the time and doesn’t really pay attention to anything else.
  9. Yes it makes me feel sad because they don’t pay attention.
  10. Yes because when I want to talk they ignore me.
  11. Yes I feel like I’m left out and nobody listens to me.
  12. Yes I feel this with my mom it makes me feel like I’m worthless.
  13. Yes mad because they never talk to me.
  14. Yes because it makes me feel left out.
  15. Yes, I feel kinda sad while my dad and lots of my friends play on their phones.
  16. Yes my grandma’s always on her phone and my grandpa’s always on his iPad.
  17. Yes my parents are always on their phones around which makes me quite sad.
  18. Kinda because sometimes my grandma just plays on her phone like going on facebook and not paying attention to me.
  19. Sometimes I wish I could speak to my sister more but we are both on our phones. It makes me feel a bit sad.
  20. Yes I experience this with family members who don’t look up and pay attention and it makes me feel like they just don’t care about what I have to say.
  21. My family and friends can tend to do this sometimes. It makes me feel like we are not as connected when they are on their phones. They don’t want to listen to anyone.
  22. It makes me feel left out and that they don’t want to talk.
  23. I do experience it with my family quite often and honestly it makes me feel terrible and makes me feel like they don’t have enough time to ask how my day was or how everything is going.
  24. Yes my family is definitely on our phones and computers and TV a lot and it makes me feel sad because we never do stuff as a family.
  25. Sometimes. It doesn’t make me feel too great because if I’m talking and they’re on their phone it doesn’t seem like they’re listening to me.
  26. It’s the same with my family.
  27. It makes me sad that family does this too, due to their screen time being more important to them.
  28. My mom is always on her phone and whenever I try to talk to her she never listens, or it takes her like 5 minutes for her to even notice that I was talking to her. It makes me feel upset.

I saw similar responses from all types of students.

Shy and outgoing.  Unstable family and well-established family.  Well-off and well-fare.

Just to show there’s not one factor that influenced their answer.

There were a lot of kids who said it wasn’t a big deal at home because they played outside as a family.

Some kids said it didn’t bother them because they enjoyed being on their phone too.

Whether we are guilty of staring at a screen or not, I think we all [being a family member or friend] could do better at just being present with the people around us.

I want to start planning activities (I’m talking about like 30 minutes because life still requires me to cook, clean, and get my kids ready for bed) to make sure we don’t get stuck in the routine of staring at a screen all evening.

  • Park Monday- play at a different park in our town, there’s at least half a dozen in our small town.
  • Trampoline Tuesday- play on our trampoline.
  • Walk Wednesday- walk out to our pond.
  • Trampoline Thursday- play on the trampoline again or ride bikes in the garage.
  • Fun Friday- some kind of fun family outing or just go get a slushy or treat, then go home and play a game.
  • Messy Saturday- get messy, were I let them paint, play in the sand, or bake with me. Invite family or friends over.
  • Soda Sunday- a day already known as “soda” Sunday, but also family movie night with popcorn or candy.

Spending quality time with family may look different as the kids get older.

I’m going to post this, put my phone down, and go play with my kids.


5 Signs That It’s Time to Change

1. Stressed.

I used to be stressed. All. The. Time. Over every. Little. Thing. I lived in a state of stress. I think I could attribute it to being overly tired and exhausted from being a teacher, wife, and mom, but I reflected on just what I was getting frustrated over.

A lot of it was having too much to do and either too little time or energy to get it done.

Some people would tell me the dishes can wait, the kids are only little once. Things like that.

But really, if I have a sink stacked full of dishes, 5 baskets of laundry mocking me on the couch, and clutter piled high on the counters I don’t enjoy digging for a black sock on the morning of the day I have breakfast duty at school.

I don’t enjoy spending an hour emptying the dishwasher, loading it up, and washing the rest of the dishes because they wouldn’t fit in one load.

So I changed that.

Instead of coming home and plopping on the couch, I rush to get all the “chores” out of the way while my kids watch a show or eat a snack.

Then I can focus on relaxing or playing with my kids without having the nagging feeling of needing to get something done.

I try my best to “keep up” with the chores before they turn into mountains.

I stay weeks, even months ahead on lesson plans so that when “something comes up” during my plan time I’m not stressed about my lesson for the next day.

I keep a list of things that are running low, or better yet stock up, so I don’t have to run to the store at 9 o’clock at night because we ran out of toilet paper, diapers, or deodorant.

I try to stay ahead. Keep up. So I don’t feel the stress of being behind.

I feel like I have more time to actually relax than “relaxing” (procrastinating) myself into a state of stress.


2. Late.

While semi-potty training two toddlers, you can imagine why it takes us 20 minutes from the time I say “put your shoes on” until we are actually pulling out of the driveway.

This one was really bad. It was so bad, and we would be so late, that sometimes it would make me want to just give up and stay home (mainly getting to church).

I would set my alarm to have just enough time to get ready, in a frenzy, yank the kids out of bed, get them dressed, and run out the door holding them under my arms like footballs.

I would be late because of “red lights” or “slow drivers.”

I since figured out a genius idea.

Wake up earlier.

Earlier and earlier until I find a time that I don’t have to rush and have accounted for time if I do hit every red light.

I can kiss my kids good bye, follow a slow driver to work and still walk in 5 minutes before I have to be there.

I lay out our outfits for the whole week and pack everything the night before.

We get ready for church as soon as we wake up. We leave “30 minutes early” because remember it takes 20 minutes for them to put their shoes on, go to the bathroom, get in their car sets, and drive away.

Late still happens in our house occasionally, but it’s not a habit we put ourselves in anymore.


3. Dread.

Dreading Sunday nights. Monday mornings. Waiting for Friday to feel relief. Not looking forward to a majority of the days in the week.

That’s a sad way to live.

Maybe it’s time for a change in what you do during the day. Start something new. Shift around or change within where you are.

Step away from former responsibilities or commitments that take away energy from what matters most.

Pick up a passion or hobby that you once enjoyed or dream to do.  I started painting again, a couple times a month when the kids go to bed.

boy sign

I taught English for 7-12th grade (yes every grade in between, each hour of the day) in Alaska for a couple years, then back in Missouri at a high school, and then finally landed at a middle school.

I gained something from every experience, but I feel like I’ve finally settled in the right place, where I feel like I’m making the biggest impact with my talents and personality.

I don’t look forward to every aspect of my job, but I do feel an overall sense that I’m where I’m called to be at this time.

I find joy knowing what I do during the day, and at home matters.

If you don’t, reflect on what you dread and what you might be able to do to change that.

4. Cranky.

You probably have one, two, or a handful of people who truly know the real you. Not the polished, jeans wearing, casual conversation you.

I’m talking about the I-had-a-rough-day, I’m at the end of my patience, and I just changed into my comfy-not-for-public sweat pants you.

The you that is ugly and doesn’t think before you speak. The you that pouted, and rolled your eyes, and said mean things to your husband.

What is the root of your crankiness?

Is it because you stayed up too late too many nights in a row?

Is it because you are stressed because you are late because you are dreading going to wherever you are headed?

Figure out why you are cranky and knock it off. Quit complaining about how things are and do something about. Don’t blame other people for your lack of happiness. (This is me talking to myself).

5. Exhausted.

Not just tired. But like running on empty, chugging coffee, and too too too busy.

You give everything to everyone else, and you have nothing left at the end of each day.

You lost touch with what you once enjoyed. You aren’t using your talents. You don’t feel like you have enough energy.

This one seems like common sense, but it takes some self-discipline and maybe a shift in your family’s schedule.

Get more sleep.

Can’t sleep in? Go to bed earlier.

Got kids? Put them to bed earlier.

I need at least an hour or two after the kids go to bed to myself or for my husband and I to hang out. So that means I need the kids to go to bed earlier. We set alarms just like in the morning.

My son helped pick out the sounds.

The ducks quack at bath time. The dogs bark at book and snack time.

The motorcycle rumbles when it’s time to brush teeth. A song plays when it’s time to go potty and say bedtime prayers.

Our whole house is a lot happier when we go to bed at a decent time and stick to our routine to keep things normal.

We made a lot of changes this year and I’m still learning as I go. Take some time to think about it.  Are you sick and tired of how things are going? With your health? Job? Mood? Parenting?

Then make some changes.

Don’t waste your best days being tired and wishing for the weekend.

Go for it. Change it now.




5 Things This Teacher Won’t Tell Parents

1. I won’t tell you when your child blurts out loud to me and the entire class “This is boring! Why do we have to do this?” after I stayed up late with a sick infant the night before and spent over 6 hours the previous week coming up with a way to, in fact, make coordinating conjunctions engaging and entertaining.

2. I won’t tell you when your child asks to go to the bathroom as soon as the bell rings even though they were socializing at their locker during the entire passing period… and then gives an attitude when I tell them no.

3. I won’t tell you when your child asks “what are we doing?” (because they were talking) when I just finished explaining and modeling the exact thing they should be doing. Ask a friend.

4. I won’t tell you when your child is more concerned with talking to their friend instead of listening to “hints” for the upcoming test.

So now you’re thinking… Hey lady, do you even care about my child? Why would you let all of these behaviors slide?

5. You don’t know because I am doing everything I can to help them solve their problem.  I am changing their seat, changing the lessons that have already been planned, going back over the rules, pulling them aside and having a private conversation, giving them warnings, getting to the bottom of the issue, helping them come up with a solution for next time, giving them fresh chances day after day, and believing in them that they can make a good choice.

…but when I have exhausted every avenue, that’s when you get the call.

Not to tell you how awful your child has been behaving.   Not to tell you they caused me to have a bad day.  Not to make you feel bad.  Hey, it’s uncomfortable for me too.

I’m calling to ask you for help.  Because you know your child best.  We both want them to succeed.  But it’s just not working, and I need to be backed up. I need you to believe me.

I need you to sit down and have a talk with your child about what’s going on.  Why is it an issue?  How is this affecting others?  What are your actions doing to yourself?  What can you do to be better?  What else can the teacher do for you to help you be better?

I’m not out to get you, or your child.  But remember no one is perfect.  That includes your child.  And if I call you, I’m taking time out of my day to say I care enough about your child that I want them to succeed.  I want them to be better.

Sometimes we (parents) don’t ask (about our kids) because we’re afraid of the answer.  I’ll be honest.  I usually sugar coat some parent teacher conferences and enjoy the look on the kids’ face when I don’t tell their parents that they were indeed rude to me that one Tuesday when they wanted to look cool in front of their friends.  But I pulled them aside.  Had that conversation.  Did not make it a big deal.  And moved on.

Not every teacher is like me.  There is no one right way to deal with every kid and every situation. I just do what I think is in the best interest of the student.

I do call when I’ve had enough.  Or for ongoing behaviors.

If we can work it out at school, you may never know how many (social/life) lessons your child is learning in my class besides grammar.

5 Ways to Not Hate Sunday Nights

I used to be a Sunday night hater. That feeling of dread. Back to responsibility. Back to stress of the week. Spending more time away from my kids. Waking up to an alarm.

That’s how I used to see it.

I’d say a lot of how I felt Sunday night depended on what I was doing Monday morning.

Hopefully you love what you do. If you just flat out don’t, it may be time to consider a change. Within your job, or… a new perspective.

As a teacher, I can shift my thinking:

Am I “dealing with kids” or influencing young lives?

Am I “putting up with their behavior problems” or showing them, as an example, how to be patient and control my emotions?

I’ve shifted around 3 schools in 7 years, and I’d say I finally found my “spot.”

I’d also say a large part of how I feel on Sunday night is my own doing.

Did I leave a sink full of dishes? Mounds of undone laundry? Lessons unplanned for the following week?

I’ve been there. It’s stressful. It’s a recipe for the grumps. Ugggh.

While I thought I was “relaxing” all weekend because I was too “tired” from the week, I was actually setting myself up for a dreadful Sunday night.

In the last couple years, I’ve flipped things around. I’ve gotten all the not-so-fun chores done on Friday nights or Saturday mornings.

Do I enjoy doing chores then?

Actually, they’re not that bad. It’s the feeling after, that it’s done that makes it enjoyable.

They have to be done at some point, right? So why not do them first, to start off the weekend?

They are done and not mocking me Sunday at 9pm. I can truly relax without that nagging procrastinating feeling.

Here are some practical things I do *before* Sunday night that make Monday morning and the week ahead not something to dread.

1. Laundry & Clean Sweep the House

This one is not a genius idea. A lot of times I just have to suck-it-up & get started. It’s not so bad once I get going. The best way to have a stressful Monday morning is to have to dig through a basket of laundry for a matching sock.

I try to get all the loads done on Friday night or during the day Saturday.

At the latest, I fold and put away laundry Sunday morning while the kids watch cartoons before church.

I also do a quick (hour or less) clean sweep of the house. (Benefits of a small house!) I work my way from the bedrooms up to the living/kitchen.

Restock the soap and toilet paper. Refill diaper changing station. Whatever is running low, put it on a list for the next time you run to the store.

Vacuum main areas. Sweep kitchen. Change the sheets. Declutter the counter.

2. Lay Out Outfits for the Whole Week

I used to always lay out my outfit the night before, but once I had kids with tiny clothes, I went ahead and put outfits together for the whole week. Shirts + Pants + Socks. Stacked in order Monday-Friday. (I usually pick out outfits while I’m putting the folded laundry away)

Call me crazy, but I even check the weather for the week and pick outfits based on that. Plus, if we have any kind of event or church, I pick out a certain outfit for that day.

I do this for myself and my kids. It makes mornings so easy. Sometimes I still do this in the summer.

3. Get my Classroom Ready for Monday Before I Leave Friday

I set a routine with my last hour class on Friday’s. In the last 5 minutes, they happily wipe down the desks with disinfectant, fight over who gets to vacuum my little rugs, plug in all the computers, and tidy up the room.

Before I leave, I change my dry erase calendar, make sure I have supplies/the white board ready for Monday’s lesson, and sanitize my desk.

When I walk in Monday morning, I have no prep other than turning on my computer. My room is freshened up and clean. Ready for a new week.

4. Pack the Bags & Prep the Food

I don’t really have much to pack. Maybe 15 minutes. I stuff clean blankets back in my kids’ backpacks. Put clean utensils in my lunch box. Stack my tupperware lunch in the fridge. Fill up 5 baggies of cereal for my breakfast for the week. Set the coffee timer.

I really try to do these things before Sunday night, usually Sunday morning or afternoon.

As far as lunches, I usually take leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.

5. Do Something Fun on Sunday Night

Now that the weather is colder, we will rent a movie and make some popcorn for a lazy Sunday night.

I’ll make brownies or we’ll lay down sleeping bags and pillows in the living room.

Play a family game. Bake something. Go on a walk. Go out for an ice cream treat.

Whatever is fun for you, get all those not-so-fun-chores done so you can look forward to relaxing on Sunday night.

If you aren’t enjoying your Sunday nights, think about what you do… or don’t do that can help make it feel like a reward.

My Top 5 #teachergoals This Year

Home Depot has a pretty good slogan, never stop improving. I’ve adopted that for myself as a teacher.

Even though I shift and change what I do each year to make it better teachers have this thing called a “Professional Development Plan.” Mandated by the State. Keeping us accountable.

The fill-in-the-box document asks things like:

What “standard” will you focus on developing?

What data will prove you met this goal?

I wish it asked me this:

How are you going to be a better teacher than you were last year?

How will you better serve your students?

Those are the questions I ask myself.

So if I could make up my own version of a professional development plan, here are my true answers.

My #teachergoals.

5. #leavethe99

This goal is based off of the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

Luke 15 says:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

This goal of mine is not an “ignore 99 students so I can devote attention to one,” but it’s more like seek out who is a “lost sheep” — the quiet one, the one who avoids getting noticed, the one who sits alone, the one who doesn’t have school supplies or clean shoes, the one who acts out, but really just needs some help one-on-one understanding the assignment.

I want to do a better job at finding those lost-sheep-students and get them what they need before they leave my room in May.

4. #notrashtalk

I’m not a gossiper, but I most definitely used to be an avid ventor.

If I didn’t agree, I just needed to vent about it. I usually ended up more upset than when I started. Hmm.

Two years ago I made a goal to not say anything negative about my bosses, or any of my superiors. That includes joining in on a conversation that is negative.

Last year, I added to that. I made it my goal to not say anything negative — vent — about any of my co-workers. Even if I heard conversation, not to add to the negativity, but rather try to turn the conversation around and say something positive.

This year, I’m taking it one step further. No bad talking the students. Concerns don’t count. Parent phone calls don’t count. I mean the comments I would say to other teachers that put a negative stigma on a particular kid, class period, or group.

I should note that I work with amazing people, so this goal is not very hard at all. I want to do this to keep myself in check.

3. #letthemdoit

This one. It’s tough. Especially when we use computers. I didn’t realize how much I would do for them (for time efficiency) until I consciously did not.

I mean scenarios like this:

“How do I delete this text box on my computer?”

*teacher clicks on student’s computer and deletes text box*

Instead, I try to ask them guided questions:

Where do you think you need to click to delete it? What key on the keyboard should you press?

It takes a lot longer to watch them figure it out on their own, and it may take them a half dozen tries, but I’m serving them right by creating a problem-solving student instead of a teacher-reliant student.

Another way I’m putting the responsibility back on them is with the basic concept of classroom jobs. During the first week of school they voluntarily signed-up for everything from turning on the lights — to passing out notebooks — to pushing in chairs.

I showed them how to do those jobs.

We practiced. We got better. We got faster.

And now, all the effort in establishing those procedures is paying off. I greet students as they enter, meanwhile the room is working like a well-oiled machine. Let-them-do-it saves me a lot of time and energy too.

2. #buildrelationships

I have a problem with unread school emails. I am a frequent inbox checker.

This stuff is important.

While sometimes it is important, most of the time it is not urgent — as in — it could wait until my plan time or lunch.

I also have a tendency to want to be productive while students are working –fixing up a lesson for next week– tackling a few things off my teacher to-do list.

While I feel like I use my time wisely during the school day, I still feel like I’m missing out on some opportunities to connect with my students.

I’m going with the “waitress” technique more. Walking around checking to see if anyone needs help, making sure they are doing it correctly before turning it in. Suggesting ways to make it better. Saying more good jobs and that looks great keep it ups.

Will my feet be more tired? Probably. But I hope to have built strong relationships while balancing out productivity.

1. #prayformystudents

Pray while I turn my computer on in the morning. Play worship music before they enter the room.

Set up a peaceful space.

Pray for wisdom to know how to handle every situation.

That I would see them not based on their behavior, but as the perfectly different creations God made them.

That’s my professional development plan this year.

5 Ways To Create A Dream Classroom Without Spending Your Own Money

I’m starting year 7 in the classroom this week and I’ve finally mastered my decorating dream.

I have always kept to the rule “don’t spend my own money” on my classroom.

I break my rule occasionally. I’ll throw down $27 for a donut party for a class reward or get $2 pillows at a garage sale.

So how do I make my classroom look good without going broke?

Here are my top 5 ways (in order) of how I pull together my classroom without digging in my own pocket.

#1 Teacher hand-me-downs

This is my number one way to acquire things for my classroom. Teachers helping teachers.

A lot of times teachers in my building will send out an email with free items or they’ll leave them in the workroom.

I’ve also had awesome veteran teachers ask me personally if I wanted items they no longer use.

90% of my classroom library comes from teachers passing books on to me.

Teal supply caddies- Teacher-hand-me-down, Black file cabinet- hand-me-down, teal/white area rug- Teacher hand-me-down, tin buckets- Walmart floral aisle, Walmart fabric on bulliton board, Notebooks sign- DIY with sharpie and Walmart wedding sign

#2 Up-cycled junk

Teacher hand-me-downs go along with up-cycled junk. I acquired old mismatched picture frames from a teacher and revamped them with black spray paint, fun scrapbook paper, and printed & cut full page letters spelling READ.

I spray painted this worn out bulletin board black.

Gold lamp- Walmart $7, black arrow/chalkboard/clipboards- Walmart wedding decor, WRITE letters- Walmart craft, chalkboard quote- diy with Walmart “chalk marker,” school spirit pennant- black poster board cut into triangles + hole punched + gold paint pen + black string

I am fortunate to have a woodworking husband who can build a podium from an old coat rack. He inserted an old whiteboard for the tray surface. Black spray paint did it again to complete the DIY podium.

Stool- $10 my money at a garage sale, 3-drawer tub-Teacher hand-me-down, Rugs- Walmart clearance, Book boarder- Teacher hand-me-down, Black/white pillows- Walmart

If you have relatives who will let you dig through their junk, you can find a lot of treasures for free.

I created these 4 pictures by hand with black spray paint + a gold paint pen from finds in my mom’s basement. I have 4 stands of white Christmas lights strung across my ceiling (with paper clips and command hooks), courtesy of my aunt’s garage. The “R” picture frame was a personal gift from a crafty friend.

Clock- Walmart, Mascot- school provided, Book stand- teacher hand-me-down, Curtains- Walmart fabric, sewn by my wonderful mother-in-law

#3 Education grants

Out of 3 grants that I’ve applied for, I have received 2. One for just books, the other for an iPad station. I asked for a tall table and stools set, 2 iPad minis, and shock-proof cases along with headphones. The grants I applied for were local in-district.


My awesome custodian and I assembled this table and stool set, 2 hours + 100 pieces later

#4 Donations

A couple years ago I dreamed of having large reading chairs for a reading space. I constantly checked my local Facebook Marketplace for “reading chairs.”

I messaged people with a short but sweet request that if they didn’t sell, if they would consider donating it to my middle school classroom.

2 people didn’t reply back, but 2 to my surprise said yes! For free! (The large light green chair was marked for $30. The teal chair was marked for $60.)


Small teal rug- Teacher hand-me-down, gray ottoman- $15 Walmart, small black bookshelf- $15 Walmart, an 8×10 yearbook photo of myself in 7th grade courtesy of mom

Pillows- $2 each at garage sale

White lamp- Teacher hand-me-down (base is wobbly, but it works great in the corner)

I also (hesitantly) signed up for my first Donors Choose project last year and it was fully funded by family, friends, and people in my community in less than a day. (Shared through Facebook). That’s how I got 6 different sets of popular novels (see book sets pictured below). I also created a project for two sturdy black plastic/metal tub reading chairs (see pictured below). Those were also funded in a day.


Gray runner rug- donated from a local carpet shop (it was a remnant, I taped the edges with gorilla tape), black/white pillow- Walmart, black lamp- Walmart clearance

#5 Classroom Budget

I have been in a few buildings with varying budgets. My first building had a “get what you need” budget from a catalog. At another building I had enough for a stapler, scissors, tape, and 2 expo markers. No matter what my budget is, I make sure that it follows these things:  1) The item benefits the students  2) The item helps me do my job

With that in mind, I usually stock the “consumables” each year. Markers. Highlighters. Colored pencils. Construction paper. Tape.

A lot of my signs and posters are DIY. I like to post my expectations, rules, consequences, drawer labels, and whiteboard labels.

I made a pack of scrapbook paper, construction paper, and one chalk marker go a long way.

I re-did a lot of my signs and posters to follow a cool-tone color scheme (gray tones and teal/green tones, with black/white/gold accents).

It was a labor of love, but after going through the laminator, they should last for a long time.

I got some cheap wedding signs from Walmart and created labels using a chalk marker to hang above my book shelves.

Weekly calendar lines- rose gold “washi” tape from Walmart, Week day signs- DIY gray construction paper + a calligraphy YouTube video + chalk marker + laminator

Expectations posters (idea from PBIS) DIY using google docs + gray card stock + 3 hours of cutting/gluing/lamination/more cutting. My new favorite font to use this year is called “Londrina Outline,” it’s very bubble-lettery.

Signs- DIY with chalk marker, string art inspired lines on the word KIND

Turn in drawers- Walmart, Sign- DIY with chalk marker, lamp/shade- Walmart

Drawer labels- printed + glued to scrapbook paper

Handmade signs

That’s how I pulled this together. If you have questions on anything above leave a comment.

Make your classroom your own! You can do it, but it may take some time (and asking) to acquire and create the look you are going for.

I used Pinterest over the summer to collect inspiration. I hope I have inspired someone here!