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


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.

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!

10 Reasons to Appreciate a Daycare Teacher

1. They are not daycare workers, they are daycare teachers.  Their lesson plan every day includes: how to share, how to have “nice hands” and “walking feet,” how to say please and thank you, how to walk behind someone without pushing, how to take turns, and how to have “listening ears.”

2. They are not just teachers.  They are also janitors and nurses.  They make boo-boos feel better and dry up tears.  They spray, wipe, sanitize, sweep, mop, vacuum, and take out the trash.

3. They are waitresses. They balance little trays and cups of milk.  They pick up squashed peas off the floor.  Scoop peaches when they ask for more.

4. They change 5 dirty diapers, within 10 minutes, the day after beef and corn.

5. They get 12 little ducklings to follow in a row on their way to the playground.

6. They tie tiny shoes. Snap tiny pants. Fold tiny blankeys. Wipe tiny noses. Spend 5 minutes fixing the heels of tiny Converse. Multiply all of this by 12 on some days.

7. They are there before parents go to work and-or don’t go home until the last kid is picked up as the second hand ticks to closing time.

8. They lay out cots and pillows and blankeys and paci’s.  They know who gets a pacifier, who gets a 6 oz bottle, who has to have all the lights out, who will wake up early, who came in late and will lay awake.  They sit between cots patting restless toddlers to sleep.  They spend the rest of nap time keeping the one early riser from waking the 11 others.

9. They go home and take care of their own families and homes, or their own children.  They somehow find time to rest their tired feet.

10. They are patient and kind.  They are trustworthy.  They do their best with no promise of rest.  They don’t enjoy disciplining, but do it with love.  Their heart swells to see your child grow and learn and smile and play.  They laugh at the funny things the kids always say.  Say thank you to your daycare teacher.  They love your child more than you know.

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Note: I worked at my kids’ daycare this summer.  I have a new found appreciation for all of the staff!  I worked in every age, 0-10.  Every age group has their challenges, but still they each have something sweet, hilarious, or special about each of them.  You can show appreciation to the teachers with a simple gift: their favorite drink or candy, a little note, or just a daily “thank you.”  They don’t ask for recognition, but show them some love for loving your most precious gift each day.

What I Learned About Losing a Student

What am I supposed to say to these 12-year-olds when they show up to my classroom tomorrow? Do I talk about the empty seat in the room? Do I go on with the lesson as planned and attempt to keep things normal? There is no lesson plan about what to do when you lose a life.  

The moment you get the news as you are washing the dishes and there becomes no distinction between the suds in the sink and the water pouring down your face.

As you feel your own daughter kicking in your belly, you can’t understand why someone is losing what you are gaining.

You think back to that last memory.  What did I do? What did I say?

How she raised her hand enthusiastically to read the part of Scrooge’s sister, and you pointed to her, when you could have picked 12 other girls.  How you finished reading the play A Christmas Carol and had just enough time to talk about the message.  How you asked the class to reflect on how they are living their lives and treating other people, because you only get one chance to live your life on Earth.  Would you wake up tomorrow like Scrooge and change your ways?  

And that’s the last thing you said to her class before the bell rang.  And she headed out the door with a smile on her face.  

What the pastor said at the service has stuck with me all year. He said something along the lines of this, “If God told you he had a gift for you, but you will only have it for x amount of time, would you still want it?  Or knowing this, would you not want it at all? And if this gift was a child, would you still want it even if it was for 1 day or 12 years?  Of course you would take it, and you would love it for all the time you had, and keep loving it.”

I’ve asked myself some questions as a teacher.  Do I love my students? Since I spend x amount of days in a year with them, am I showing them love every single one of those days?  Do I treat them as a gift? Or do I only love them on the days that they followed directions? Because they did not talk while I was talking and turned in their work on time? Is my love for them conditional?

Would I feel the same way if I lost that student?  You know what I’m talking about.  Why do I only enjoy my students when they comply to my rules, when God loves me without condition? He loves me even when I am cranky and lazy, and when I don’t listen when He is speaking.

So I thought about how none of this stuff really matters at all. It will not truly matter how well they pushed in their chair or spelled a word correctly.  What will matter is that you showed them grace when they failed, you showed them kindness when they had a bad day, and you showed them love even when they made it very difficult.  Not because they deserved it, but because you took the opportunity to show God’s love because you received His love even when you didn’t deserve it.

All of this translates into my parenting as well. I kiss their heads too many times.  I jump up to tend to the late night cries.  I lift them up when they reach their arms for me.  And the one thing I know is that they are loved without condition.  

So I ask myself this.  Am I showing my students love during the time that we are given?

Welcome to Mom Wife + Teacher Life

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I started this blog with the hope to encourage moms, wives, teachers, and all of the above.  I became a wife in 2012 + teacher in 2012 + mom in 2015 + and a mom again in 2017.  How can you do it all, and do it well?  This is the place to find inspiration, encouragement, laugh at my mistakes, and connect with one another for support!