Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is teacher appreciation week. As a teacher myself, I quite enjoy this week! It is a nice time where people from all over let teachers know how special they really are.

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So, if you think of it, thank a special teacher (or two, or three) who have made an impact in your life or in the lives of your children,. Nothing means more or boosts our spirits better than hearing how we have helped others.

The teachers that impacted my life were the ones who were supportive of me, and yet challenging to me. They were kind, funny, sarcastic and authentic. I knew they cared.

And that is what I hope to bring to the live of my students every day…that they know at least one person cares about them.

graduation

Sidenote – You may also consider buying them a Starbucks gift-card. Just sayin’. 🙂

Blessings,

Staying On Task

I hope everyone had a great weekend! I chaperoned prom (at the high school I used to teach at) this weekend and had  a blast! Here are some photos….

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{After I had my makeup all done.}

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{All dolled up!}

The Struggle….

One of the things I have been struggling with is time management & staying on task. My productivity for the first few weeks of my new job was terrible. I felt overwhelmed and, at the end of a long day, often felt like I wasn’t getting much done, though I felt like I had run a marathon! (It doesn’t help that since having a child four years ago, my brain cells er, memory has slowly diminished!)

One of the things my new employer encourages us to do is to develop a strict daily schedule. While that sounded really great in theory, I found myself “flying by the seat of my pants” most days and was paying for it. This past Friday, I put my plan into action. And to my surprise, I felt more productive and accomplished, and was quite successful in my daily tasks!

What are some things that you can do to make your life more productive, whether you’re a working from home momma, working outside the home momma or just someone looking to make their days more productive?

I want to share some of my favorite apps, items, etc. that have assisted me in becoming more task-oriented and less-stressed in my daily life.

Creating a Daily Schedule (and sticking to it!)

I find that creating a simple daily schedule on excel has really helped to keep me on task. I break it down by the hour and record EVERYTHING I plan to do that day. While we all know life happens sometimes (and that may mean I don’t hit EVERYTHING on my list every day), at least I have a plan and that helps me stay focused on the goals for each day.

Work Schedule

{A photo of my work schedule I created with Excel, since I work from home.}

Utilizing Apps/Websites

I utilize a TON of apps and websites to help me in my daily life. Many of them help with my diminished memory, but some do assist me in organization as well.

  • Outlook Calendar – I use this to track appointments, meetings and events. You can simply add an event on the date & time you need it, and set multiple reminders that will beep at you. If you use an iPhone, it can sync and beep at you on the go, too!
  • MailBox – This is the latest and greatest for email organization. It allows you to load multiple email addresses, organize emails into lists to save, and also lets you determine varying times for you to answer emails! Basically, it allows you to keep a de-cluttered email inbox which can lead to lower stress (in my opinion!). 🙂
  • Reminders App – I use this pre-loaded app on the iPhone for grocery shopping. It lets me add/create multiple lists, and when I have added each grocery item to my cart, I can check it off of my list. Then it disappears, which lets me know I have the item in my cart. You can use this app for MANY tasks, but it is definitely a favorite of mine when shopping.
  • Online Timer – when working from home, I use a timer to let me know when it is time to move to the next task. 🙂 There are plenty of free online timers online or on your smartphones!

One app/website I want to try – RescueTime:I just found out about this website on twitter. Its goal is to help diminish online digital distractions. I am interested to see how it works!

What are some things that make your day more productive? Feel free to share in the comments below! 🙂

Blessings,

A day in the life

Virtual Teaching intro

When I transitioned to teaching virtually a month ago, many began to come up to me and ask me what it is that I “do.”

Presumptively, many might think I sit around at my house all day in my PJs (OK – I admit, I do often spend my days in my yoga pants) and do nothing.

But truth be told – I am working harder than I have in a long time. But surprisingly, I feel LESS stressed than when I was teaching in the public school environment. Perhaps it is all of the support I get from the top (my principal) down (my peers). Maybe it is that I get to speak into the lives of individuals every day and (finally) have the time to focus on the one-on-one relationship building teaching brings.

Work Schedule

This is my weekly schedule. Every hour is planned to keep me focused and productive!

Virtual teaching involves more phone calling and interaction, grading papers, facilitating and less of a focus on lesson planning and classroom management. I spend most of my day helping students and parents and calling to check on new students. I do teach “live” a few times a month, for students’ required live collaboration lessons they must attend.

What is the best part of working from home?

The flexibility. I love that I can work on a schedule that isn’t bound by needing a substitute. I am able to be there more for my daughter during the day and can support her better. If she is sick, I can be there and still work effectively. If I want to attend an event at her school, I don’t have to rush out to my classroom. If I desire, I can travel to my mom’s house and still work, while spending time with family.

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Where I do most of my work – at my new desk! Thanks honey for getting it for me!

Do I miss the live, face-to-face interaction? Do I get bored? Am I lonely?

Truthfully – I do miss it some. I mostly miss the students I had to leave behind. But I am getting much more interaction and support working virtually.I am able to work and interact more with my colleagues in the virtual world than I ever did while I taught in the public school system. We communicate/chat on a daily basis and we are required to team and support each other. This fosters a sense of community and support, which I often felt was lacking in my previous job(s).

In order to be successful while working from home, you must be willing to stay to a strict schedule for yourself, and be flexible in meeting the needs of your students. One way I help stay out of a “rut” is by attending group get-togethers. Many virtual teachers live in my area and we meet weekly at Panera to work together. In addition, there is another group that meets monthly to go out to lunch. It is a nice way to fellowship and meet new co-workers (and see old friends!).

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What is a day in your life like?? Do you love what you do? What do you wish you could change?

Praying for you all today – thankful for you, too. 🙂

Blessings,

How To Teach Your Littles About Easter

I am so excited to share with you some of our Easter traditions! I have to give a special thank you to Kristin @ Lily & Light for asking me to share today. She is such a blessing to my life and I am honored to be guest-blogging today on her blog, too.

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{If you love jelly beans, I highly recommend the Starburst ones…YUMM-O!}

One of the more silly/fun things we do with my daughter is filling Easter eggs for her preschool. They have a big Easter egg hunt each year and ask parents to bring in eggs filled with candy. My sweet one has a great time picking out the plastic eggs and candy, and then helping to fill them to share with her classmates.

Easter Egg Fun

{Someone was VERY proud of their work!}

Can I be honest? My husband and I are terrible at starting family traditions. We struggle every year to do these. One of the biggest struggles we have had is teaching our daughter about the true meaning of important holidays like Christmas and Easter.

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Ultimately, we want our daughter to know Christ. We love the fun traditions that are more “commercial” in nature, but we strongly desire for her to be able to differentiate between what is truly important/impactful and what is for fun.

Thankfully, we were given a wonderful gift to help in this endeavor. My mother in law gave us the Jesus Storybook Bible for Christmas to help us teach our daughter about Jesus. If you have children who are younger, I HIGHLY recommend this Bible! This Bible has stories are extremely well written, are engaging, and build on each other. Every time we read one, my daughter asks to keep going! It really is THAT engaging.

One of the great additions you get when purchasing the Bible is that they include DVDs with cartoon videos that accompany each story. They are read by a narrator and the images match those in the Bible itself. It makes the stories come to life, and engage the kids in the story. Zondervan (the publisher) even put some of the videos online!

While my husband and I are still hashing this out, we do hope to use this Bible as a means to teach our sweet one about the reasons why we celebrate these holidays. While giving gifts and treats are certainly a fun part of these family holidays, I desperately want my daughter to find the true value behind Easter.

What types of Easter celebrations do you do with your families? What do you use to help teach your children about Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection?

Blessings (& Happy Easter!)

The Bitter & The Sweet

WARNING: INCESSANTLY LONG POST AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED…. 🙂

It is with a joyful but heavy heart that I write this post.

As is no secret to those who know me well, for some time I have desired to transition to virtual school education. Having been a public school secondary (middle & high school) teacher for almost 8 years now, the pressures and exhausting schedule had begun to wear on me and my family. I have several friends who work for our state virtual school, and really enjoy it. While they work year round and have to be available and different times of the day for student questions, they are able to have more flexible schedules to meet their families needs.

Back in December, I got a call from the virtual school asking to begin the interview process. I had applied for a position a LONG time ago and forgot about it. Taking it as some sort of sign, I decided to go with the flow just to see what happens. The first initial phone interview went well. Then I didn’t hear ANYTHING for over a month. I was surprised when almost 6 weeks later, they called and asked me to go ahead with the second phase of the interview process: an online orientation and an all-day group interview at their corporate offices in Orlando, FL.

Prom

{My husband and I chaperoning prom last year}

Excited and nervous, I went forward. I was extremely impressed with the company. They seem to value individual student learning, and genuinely care about their staff. They were completely forthright with their requirements and emphasized that transitioning to virtual education is a family decision (again, because you need to be available for random times of the day, unlike the traditional public school where you’re only there until 2:30 P.M.

At the end of the all day group interview, we were told that we would get an email letting us know if they wanted to continue the interview process with us or not. If they did, then you entered the hiring pool and were told you might have to wait months to hear anything. I got asked to continue on. Again, I was very excited and nervous because frankly, I was surprised to make it this far. And so I waited.

About 4 days later I got a call requesting I come BACK to Orlando, FL for a face-to-face, individual second interview. At this point the whole process began to seem EXTREMELY real. I began to have my few close friends and family who knew about this situation to pray. I felt strongly that if God wanted me in this position, that every detail would be worked out – including issues with our vacation at the end of the month, issues with having to leave immediately from work, etc.

The second interview went great. I got the opportunity to speak with one of the social studies leaders and a lead teacher for American History who was with us by phone. Both of them asked me questions and we had a good conversation about different experiences I have had with students. When the interview was over, I asked the social studies leader who was present a few questions about my details and concerns about getting hired so quickly. He eased my concerns by informing me that he was recommending me to be hired for a full-time position, and that he felt confident they could meet my scheduling needs.

WOW. What a wonderful, detail-oriented God we serve! Being a detail-oriented person by nature, it never ceases to amaze me how God is an on-time God, and concerned Himself with every small detail of a situation. It shows just how much He loves me and values even my seemingly trivial concerns.

All of that to say – I will soon be transitioning from a public school high school teacher to a virtual school high school teacher.

I am both excited and scared. Change is tough for me. But this is a challenge I am looking forward to.

Why am I making the move? For many reasons, but the main few are: more flexibility with work and a significant pay raise. This means I can increase how much money I put towards debt reduction and savings (for our eventual move to Phoenix to plant the church) without having to take on a second job. I can also be more readily available to my daughter as she transitions to VPK and Kindergarten in the coming years.

The hardest part about leaving my current school is leaving my students and my amazing co-workers. I love my students as if they were my own children, and I hate leaving them behind. I also have formed wonderful, supportive relationships with many of my co-workers, and I dread not getting to see those folks every day. I am thankful for the time I spent working with them and I know I will build great relationships with my new co-workers at FLVS.

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{Helping with graduation last year, posing here with some of my wonderful colleagues!}

Your prayers are appreciated for my family as we make this transition. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us! We are so grateful.

On Being a Working Momma

I had the great privilege of sharing this on Nathalie’s series “The Mamahood” today. I have often struggled with guilt about being a work outside the home momma. Here is part of my journey…

I have had the great privilege to be a momma for four years now. And for most of the time, I have been a work outside the home momma. I say it that way, because I truly feel all mommas are “working mommas.” I think the term “stay at home mom” has a tone of “you don’t do anything but sit all day.” I like to think we all work – some of us in the home, some of us outside the home.

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While working outside the home has its challenges, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Since I am a high school teacher, I get the privilege of having extended at-home time with my daughter during summers and the holidays. I also get the benefit of being around my peers and gaining wisdom from other adults during my day. Is this life stressful? Yes. Is it beneficial to my overall life? Definitely!

One of the biggest lies of the enemy that comes from being a momma that works outside the home is this: “You’re not doing enough for your child. You’re being selfish and are not caring for them by being home with them.” As I have grown as a mother, I have come to recognize this as a tool of the devil. As mothers, we have to do what is best for our families. Sometimes, we simply cannot afford to be a “work at home” momma. Other times, it may be best for our personal mental, psychological and even spiritual health that we find work outside of our home.

Can I be honest? I am doing my child a disservice by staying home with her. I greatly admire all “work at home” mommas. However, I do not feel this is a calling for my family at this time. I get extremely fitful when I am at home for extended periods and find that my daughter craves the structure and socialization her preschool provides. In this season, we mutually benefit by spending time apart from each other, and we can truly enjoy the time we have together in the afternoons and on the weekends. In addition, our family needs the financial support my job provides, so we can pay off our debts and begin to transition into church planting.

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As Christians, whether we work inside or outside the home, may our goal in mothering be that our children come to know Christ. As Paul states in Philippians, “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.”(Philippians 3:10) More than anything, I desperately want my daughter to know Christ. Whether that means I am teaching her during the day or in the evenings, it is my biggest goal and hope.

I sincerely hope that whether you feel called to be a work from home momma or a “work outside the home” momma, that you do so prayerfully and that you do not feel ashamed by your choice. Mothers should not feel that they have to separate into one of the two camps. We have a common denominator that binds us all together – we are mothers. As mothers, we should seek to encourage, to lift up and to offer prayer & support to our fellow mothers. If we focus our eyes on Jesus instead of others opinion, He will mold us into the mothers He created us to be and we will be able to lead our children to Jesus, in whatever way He has called us to do so.

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Are you a new mom or a seasoned mom who is struggling with this are or another area of mothering? I highly recommend the book “Desperate” by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson. As I have been struggling as a mom over these last few years, reading it renewed my spirit and gave me a sense of freedom to mother the way God called me to.

May you be blessed today, momma. You are loved.

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