I’m not on camera, am I?

My husband has been working from home basically as long as I’ve been. We are lucky – we have big enough house and a yard to escape from each other. We also don’t have any children living at home, so we can spread out or be together depending on mood (mostly mine, admittedly).

Video Conference Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

When we’re “at work,” he takes our office on the ground floor of our split level and I take the kitchen with my laptop. We can close the door and both be on Zoom or Google Meets without disrupting each other.

But he’s in the office. Where I keep my desktop computer. And my text books. And various other miscellany I occassionally need to reference while I’m working. So there are times when I need to go into “his” space during the work day. And I’m in the kitchen. Where we keep the food. So he’s in “my” space now and again also.

We’ve developed a certain Zoom etiquette with each other over the past few weeks.

  1. We aim our cameras away from the other person when we’re on a video call. If I’m not dressed for success, I don’t want to be in his business. And I certainly don’t want my 12 year olds having any extra distraction than usual.
  2. We’re silent if the other person is on a call. He doesn’t interrupt me to ask if I know where the mayo is, and I don’t ask him to proofread an email.
  3. We discuss our schedules. I know when there’s something critical in his life and he knows when I’m on with administration or students. If one of us is on a video call with coworkers, the other might pop in to say hi, but I stay away when he’s with clients and he stays away when I’m with students or administrators.
  4. When the work day begins, it begins. I often say “Have a nice day” when he leaves the kitchen. He usually laughs and says “Drive carefully” or something equally eye-roll-inducing.
  5. When the work day ends, it ends. We leave the computers and phones behind and try to emotionally distance ourselves from work, even though we can’t physically distance ourselves.

How do you maintain your relationship while working at home?

Bestand:Screenshot of video meeting Wiki goes Caribbean, April 25 ...

Stress Relief for Teachers

I barely sleep anymore. It’s a combination, I’m sure, of the lack of excitement in my days and the very vivid imagination that has me convinced that this is a zombie apocalypse instead of a pandemic.

Somewhere around dinner time every day, I look up from my laptop and notice that the day has progressed without me. The angle of the sun is different than it was when I first stuck my nose to the grindstone, and I still have plenty more to do. My days are riddled with stress. I alternately attend zoom meetings, grade papers, teach remote classes, plan for tomorrow, and send (literally billions of) emails to parents, students, case managers, guidance counselors begging for missed assignments. Even though I’m a 30 year veteran, EVERYthing has to be recreated for this quarantine situation and my days blend into a blur of multi-tasking frenzy.

Everyone needs a way to destress. Here are my new favorites:

  • Reduce caffeine. That first cup sharpens my senses and makes me able to concentrate. The second cup makes me jittery and hyperproductive. Everything after that is evil.
  • Socialize. Depending on your state’s current restrictions, Zoom with your sisters, have a virtual happy hour with your buddies, go for a socially distant walk with your neighbor. Everyone needs human contact, and, even if you’re currently quarantined with a dozen people, everyone needs variety in their human contact.
  • Reduce alcohol. It’s a temporary solution that leads to long term problems. A glass of wine on the patio after dinner is one thing. Dulling your senses so you don’t have to think about the zombies is another.
  • Calm. It’s an app that leads you through guided meditations, sleep stories, ASMR, and breathing exercises. At one point, they offered a free year for teachers. If that’s not available, anyone with the app can send you a free month (Here’s a link from my account).
  • Yoga. There are a ton of free videos on YouTube to guide you through basically any level of practice. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced practitioner, whether you want to do a 5 minute practice or a 50 minute practice, even if you want a practice for bad knees or guided for seniors, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
Yoga Woman Pose Clipart Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
  • Run. I did the Couch to 5k program last summer, at the ripe age of 54, and found it utterly life changing. The sense of accomplishment, the knowledge of my own ability to do anything I wanted, and the general improvement in my own outlook on life keep me running even now. Tough class 1st period? Go for a jog. Difficult parent meeting? Take a run. Husband taking a nap on the couch while you’re juggling dinner, laundry, and a class of 4th graders? Hit the sidewalk.
  • Journal. Write down how you’re feeling (what do you think this blog is for?). Naming your emotions gives them less power over you.
  • Mow the lawn. For years, my son was in charge of our lawn and gardens. In his more difficult teenage years, I wasn’t allowed to plant a plant or push the lawnmower. He wanted total control, and, happy to get that off my list, I let it go. He moved out last year, and, even though I can still occassionally persuade him to come do our lawn, I discovered that the act of pushing a lawnmower coupled with the satisfaction of a freshly mowed yard is enormously satisfying. It’s not unusual for me to mow the front yard during my prep if 3rd period was particularly difficult.
Green Lawn Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

Please tell me. What’s your favorite way to destress?

8 Steps for Dealing with difficult parents during Remote Schooling

File:Complaint Department Grenade.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Some parents are more challenging than others.

We all have war stories. I’ve had parents defend their children’s lies, accuse me of losing papers that their child hadn’t handed in, and tell me they didn’t think the detention I assigned was appropriate. They didn’t think I liked their child. They send emails demanding an explanation for every point taken off an essay. They complain when you take too long to  grade tests. It’s your fault if their child plagiarizes or cheats because you hadn’t told them not to.

The war stories are as varied as children are, but the result is the same – you feel defensive because they’re either making unreasonable demands or unwarranted accusations. 

Now that we’re remote schooling, the parent complaints have shifted. “It’s too hard for my child to understand this since you’re never available for extra help” was an email sent to me 2 hours after I’d held an extra help Zoom that her child didn’t attend. “He says he turned it in on time” refers to an assignment that was turned in, blank, three hours late. 

Let me start by saying that if you’re at fault, then you need to fix it. These 8 steps are for when you’re not at fault but are taking the heat.

What’s the best way to deal with parent conflict?

  1. Prevention is the best cure. The best way to handle conflict with the parents of your students is before it happens. From the outset, reach out to parents. Build rapport by sending frequent emails like “Johnny did a great job today during the class discussion on turtles” and “Suzie has been extra sweet to the new girl in class.” Think of these little emails as setting up the expectation that you want what’s best for their kids. Later, when there is an issue, the parents will already have the mindset that you’re a good guy.
  2. The Ol’ Sandwich Technique. Be sure you sandwich any criticism of the student between compliments. “Jerry has lovely penmanship. I just wish he wouldn’t demonstrate it by writing on the walls of the boy’s room. Although I must compliment his use of metaphors.”
  3. Ask Questions and listen to the answers.  “How did Diane’s math teacher help her last year?” and “What would be a better way to communicate with you?” help give you a better understanding of what they’re looking for and establish you as a problem solver.
  4. Whose team are you on? Find things that you agree on. When a conflict arises, the tone you need to set is “We both want the same thing.” Of course I don’t want Mary to feel that her effort isn’t appreciated and Peter is welcome to come for extra help any time he wants.  Accusations, blame, or any other tone will escalate the problem.
  5. You’re the authority. No matter how few years you have under your belt, approach every conflict with the attitude that you have the skills to help this child. 
  6. Look beyond the grades. It’s a shame that Billy gets a zero on this assignment, but hopefully he’ll learn that plagiarism is a mistake.
  7. Document everything. As knowledgeable, supportive, accommodating, and helpful as you are, some people can’t be pleased. Document every effort you made to support their child. You’ll likely never need it, but 6 months from now, when they accuse you of not offering extra help, you can document the 4 offers that their child didn’t take advantage of.
  8. Don’t take it personally. It’s not personal, even though, I know, it feel personal. Parents want the best for their child, and sometimes we don’t agree on what “the best” is. It’s not your fault. Unless it is your fault, in which case you’d better fix it.

3 easy steps to create an animated banner on Google Classroom

The banner on your Google Classroom can be eye-catching and interesting. It also can be animated. Here’s how.

Step 1. Create your banner on Canva using videos or animated stickers. Canva has a free level which limits the clipart and photos you can use but is user friendly and very versatile. I set my banner size to 1600×400 px.

Step 2. Download your banner as a gif.

Step 3. On your banner on Google Classroom, click “Upload Photo,” then select your banner. Resize it to fit and click “Select Class Theme.”

Want to see some I’ve created? Download 2 free animated summer themed banners here.

More animated banners in my TpT Store:

halloween banner for Google Classroom


Creating an animated banner on TpT

The banner on your TpT store can be eyecatching and interesting. It also can be animated. Here’s how.

Step 1. Create your banner on Canva using animated stickers. Canva has a free level which limits the clipart and photos you can use but is user friendly and very versatile. I set my banner size to 450×150 which is the size recommended by TpT.

Step 2. Download your banner as a gif.

Step 3. In your store profile, click “Edit.”

Step 4. Next to “Personal Quote,” choose “Image/Link” and then “Choose File.” Select the file that you saved.

Step 5. Click Save at the bottom and you’re done!

Checking Out

The Governor just announced that school won’t be reopening until September, and that things would be “different” when we went back in September.

All across the state, the collective sound of thousand of kids closing their laptops for good could be heard.

There are 7 weeks of school left. I have content to cover, activities planned, assessments planned. And they are D.O.N.E. The Governor might just as well have said “Early summer vacation!” because that’s what they heard.

There are two ways to cope with student check-out.

  1. Up the stakes. Increase accountability, tighten the reins. Give high stakes assessments and long essays to write. Let them learn that slacking off produces poor results.
  2. Let ’em go. Release the pressure. Play games. Make it fun, interesting, compelling and stress free. Sneak in some learning while you’re doing this.

What’s the middle ground? What’s best for kids? Where is the compromise?

Please help me! What are your end of year motivation strategies to keep kids on track? How are you keeping your kids motivated now that school is “out?”

Distance Learning with Hyperdocs

Delivering instruction is challenging in distance learning situations. Challenging, but not impossible. For the past 6 weeks, we’ve tried countless web based programs – Kahoot, Quizlet, Newsela, Flocabulary, Quia, Quizziz, Edpuzzle – I can’t even name them all.

But Google still rules. Using a hyperdoc, I can direct my students to nuggets of information – either videos or websites or even one of those web based programs – while keeping them and their ideas all on one document.

For example, here is a hyperdoc I created about petroleum.

Meant to take one class period, it leads students to a tour around an oil rig, a video explanation of how a derrick works, and finally another video with a general overview of oil refining. Guided questions lead the way, pointing out the important informatoin while discouraging skipping through just to find answers.

To create a hyperdoc, here are some simple steps to follow.

  1. Select resources that are age appropriate and contain the content you want students to engage with.
  2. On your Google doc, create a table.
  3. The first column is where you will introduce the resources. For example “This video will explain atomic structure” or “Follow this link to read about the life cycle of frogs.”
  4. The second column is where you will ask guided questions to lead students to the important information in the resource.
  5. In the third column, students will write their answers. It’s easiest for students to follow instructions if you color code the answers. In the example above on Petroleum, I set the page color to gray and instructed students to fill in all of the white boxes. In the example below, students were to fill in all of the yellow boxes.
  6. Merge the boxes in the first column so that the resource is spread over all of the questions associated with it.
  7. Share on Google Classroom with the option to create a copy for each student.

Here is another example of a hyperdoc on solar power.

Also meant to take about one class period, this hyperdoc includes a very old Bill Nye video (a perennial favorite of every student I’ve ever had) as well as How Stuff Works and StudentEnergy.org, all guiding students to a general understanding of how solar power works.

Later lessons include wind power, biomass, nuclear power and hydroelectric power, all delivered in hyperdocs.

How have you used hyperdocs to help you adapt your content to distance learning?

Alternative Energy -Free Resource

I just finished the climate change unit in my middle school science classroom. I had students engage with news articles and data sets from NASA and NWS to make informed decisions about the validity of climate change claims. Then we followed up with a slide show and cloze notes to summarize everything.

I’m about to bridge the gap into a unit on alternative energy. In this unit, I used to have students form groups and research and report out about how different alternative energy sources work. Not sure how I’m going to teach that now that we’re remote. Definitely something I’m going to work on in all my free time this weekend.

To bridge the gap between what they know and what they’re about to learn, I created a quick slide show and cloze notes on how fossil fueld and alternative energy sources provide electricity. This isn’t meant to be all-encompassing, just a quick overview.

I’m offering it free along with the cloze notes on my TpT store if you’re interested.

I would love your feedback. How can I make it more useful? What would you add? What would you change?

Silver Linings

No, of course Quaran-Teaching is not what I want. I miss my kids. I miss my coworkers. I worry constantly about the health of everyone and the safety of many. Most of my identity is “teacher,” so I miss knowing who I am.

But let’s be honest. It ain’t all bad.

Teacher Bladder? Waiting for a time to use the bathroom used to be a challenge. Maybe someone will be coming down the hall? Maybe the 3 minutes between classes will be enough time?

Hey girl, I'll watch your class... Take all the pee breaks you ...

4 meals a day. Since high schools in the US start school as early as 7:30 in the morning, my lunch is scheduled for 11 am, which means I’m ready for dinner by 3:00. Which means I’m ready for second dinner by 7. Less than ideal. In theory, working from home should help me have a more “normal” meal schedule. That may or may not be working out…..you’ve heard of the “quarantine fifteen,” haven’t you?

A Collection Of the Funniest Quarantine Weight Gain Memes

Fitbit At work, I easily log 7,000 steps just in my normal regular day. A few laps around the block later and I’m comfortably in the 10,000 range. Working from home, it’s not unusual for me to check my Fitbit at noon and be in the 435 range.


Pets. My pup is thrilled when I get home from work. She’s also thrilled that I am constantly home. More petting, more walking. The emotional well being of my dog is higher now than ever.

Quarantine And Chill Day 3: Why 'Love Is Blind' Binge-worthy ...

Commute? My normal work commute is about 1/2 hour each way – certainly not terrible. But an extra hour every day is such a gift!

my commute is so short i can't listen to my morning playlist ...

I get to meet my students’ pets. ‘Nuff said.

News about #zoom on Twitter

Muting kids. Actual time in class is far more efficient.

Appreciation. Everyone needs it. Parents trying to support their children’s education are starting to recognize the challenges of teaching, especially in the younger grades. Students who have challenges at home appreciate the structure we’re providing.

Hall Duty, Bus Duty, Class Coverages. All gone.


Sunshine and roses? Of course not. But if you’re only seeing the clouds, look again. The daily annoyances are different now. There are silver linings.

Be well, Friends!

What’s a Teacher Worth?

For the decades of my teaching career, I’ve passed through myriad teacher evaluation instruments. There were the years of the checklists, years of narratives, and now we’ve had years of SGOs and SGPs. There are arguments to be made for all of these, yet I don’t think any of them actually measures the value of a teacher.

When my children were in school, I valued the teachers that held my kids to high standards and demanded excellence in their work. I valued the teachers that enabled my children to be their own best selves. I valued the teachers that helped my children engage with others and form opinions and defend them. I valued the teachers that had pretty bulletin boards and stayed after school for extra help. I valued the teachers that gave my kids a little emotional support when they were down.

Those things are immeasurable.

SGOs and SGPs and PDPs and whatever other acronym they’re going to make up and throw at us with the next iteration will never appropriately identify what it is that makes a teacher grand. You can’t measure relationships with a rubric.

Let’s talk about teacher evaluations in the Corona Era. Now that we’re at the bare bones of what education IS – teachers and students communicating together for the advancement of knowledge and skills – maybe it’s time to reevaluate how we measure the quality of a teacher.

I don’t know the right answer, but I’ve lived through several decades of the wrong answer. Leaders, please look at what’s happening now. With absolutely no training and little, if any, planning time, teachers are crushing it. Not to mention the hundreds of (viral) videos of teachers in their cars parading past their students’ houses or singing songs to remind their students of how much they care.

Find me a rubric that measures that.