Sunday, 30 December 2018

A Year of Light: Reflections from 2018

Exactly one year ago I wrote a blog post sharing my thoughts on my future and my hopes for 2018. I didn't make any resolutions; I stopped making New Year's resolutions years ago. Like most people, I found I never really kept them. However, I did end that blog post with a promise of sorts:

"As I enter this new year, I will still ask questions, have dreams, and yes, even make plans, but hold onto them loosely. In 2018, I will choose to cling tightly to the only permanent thing in a world full of temporary - the hope I profess in Christ (Hebrews 10:23). In 2018, I will cling to God's promises and His truth, with the assurance that He is working in all things for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28)."

 A few days into the new year, God gave me a single word: light. I saw it everywhere - in Scripture, in books, and in everyday life. One night as I was driving home from a church service, I saw the biggest, brightest full moon. As I looked straight ahead, I noticed how brightly it shone in the darkness, as if guiding me home. In that moment I knew God was showing me that 2018 would be a year of light.

The thing about light is that it shines brightest in the darkness, and darkness would certainly follow. A few weeks into 2018, I was faced with a decision that launched me into one of the most difficult seasons of my life. Many nights it felt as if I was grappling around in the darkness, but the Light was always there.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?" 
- Psalm 27:1a

 Although it seems silly, I used to think I had to be afraid of someone to relate to that verse. But I've realized that oftentimes it's not someone that we're afraid of - it's something. As you can probably guess from last year's post, my something was uncertainty, not knowing what the future holds for me. But in 2018, I learned that God is my Light, and the darkness is not dark to Him (Psalm 139:12). I learned that this means I will follow Him, even into the darkness and uncertainty, because He will lead me where He wants me to be. 

In the midst of the darkness, He led me on several new adventures, including the pursuit of a master's degree in Ministry/Women's Leadership and attending my first Teachers Pay Teachers Conference. Both of those new adventures were a step outside my comfort zone, but through them I also learned that God created me to be a light that reflects Him. 

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." 
- Matthew 5:14-16

 As a teacher, this means I am a light for Christ in my school and in my classroom. I am blessed to teach at a Christian school where I can worship and talk about the Lord with my students. However, I have learned that my words and actions - the way I interact with students and coworkers - are the biggest reflection of Christ that I have to offer. I have failed to be a light on many occasions, but God is teaching me day by day to abide in Him so that His love and light shine out of me (John 15:4-5).

In the summer, as I was getting ready for the 2018-2019 school year, I decided to carry the theme of light into my classroom. I used light bulb clip art on my door and student work board, and added the quote "Let your light shine!" to my wall. I also created light themed Bible verse posters and hung them on the outside wall of my classroom, so I would read those precious truths every time I come and go each day. Everywhere I turn, I'm reminded that God is my Light and I am created to reflect Him.

Over the last couple of days, I've seen a lot of posts on social media saying things like "2018 was good to me" or "2018 just wasn't my year." I really don't know if 2018 was good to me or if it was my year. But God was good, and He never stopped being my God. He is good, even when the circumstances of my life are not, and His love is unending (Psalm 107:1). Romans 8:28 reminds me that He works in all things, good and bad, for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His eternal purpose. And because of that amazing promise, I think of 2018 and rejoice.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Friday, 27 July 2018

To the Teacher Struggling to Get Through Classroom Setup...

Dear teacher,

I have a confession to make. Do you see this classroom in the background of my blog post header, my 2016-2017 classroom? At one point, I didn't know if I was going to get through with setting it up. One day during classroom setup, I found myself sitting on the floor, slumped against the cabinets, breathing deeply and choking back tears. Not because the work was overwhelming. On the contrary - that was the one year I hadn't had to move classrooms, so a lot of my bulletin boards and posters were still set up from the previous year. Yet I was still struggling to get through my classroom setup because I couldn't seem to focus. I was going through an extremely difficult time in my personal life and that day in particular was probably one of the hardest days yet.

I remember wondering how I could possibly finish what I had to do over the next few days when the dark cloud of my current circumstances seemed to loom over me at every turn. Even the bright and happy colors of my classroom couldn't change the overwhelming feelings that I felt.

I'm sharing this not for pity, but to let you know that you are not alone. We are teachers, but we are first and foremost human beings. We have our struggles, things we go through in our personal lives, and we bravely shut the door and push them aside as we teach our kids each day. But during the summer, with more time on our hands, we often have to face these struggles head on. And that may mean that when the time comes to go back to school and start setting up, we still don't feel ready.

That day during my classroom setup occurred just a few months after I made the most important decision of my life - to serve God wholeheartedly. (You can read more about that decision here and here.) 2016 had been a difficult year for me, one that I knew I wouldn't be able to get through without the Lord. And two years later, I can say that I was definitely right about that. But in that moment, while slumping against my cabinets, I wasn't even sure if God could help me. I wasn't sure about anything, especially about how I was going to make it through the next few days. But in the midst of my struggles, I learned something important.

God's grace is sufficient. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about a "thorn in his flesh" (v. 7) - not an actual thorn but some kind of ailment or weakness that he was struggling with. He goes on to say, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). Oftentimes, we wish, just as Paul did, that whatever difficulties we are facing would just go away. But God has taught me that our difficulties, limitations, trials, and failures are an opportunity for Him to show His power in our lives. When we are weak, He is strong.

There's a quote by author Wendy Mass that says, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." I don't know what you may be going through right now, personally or professionally. But I do know that on our most difficult days, God's grace is sufficient to carry us through. As you return to your classroom and begin setting up, I want you to know that it's okay to not be okay. It's okay if you find yourself on the floor, like me, holding back tears. And it's okay if you let them all out. It's okay to not know when you're going to feel okay again. In our darkest days, God's light shines brightest; the darkness is not dark to Him (Psalm 139:12). He is so much bigger than our current circumstances and nothing will ever be able to separate us from His unending love (Romans 8:39).

If you are reading this and feel led to reach out, feel free to comment, email me, or message me on my Instagram account. I would be honored to offer a listening ear and pray for you.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

To the Person Who Asked Me About My Future

Several days ago, someone asked me some questions about my future that I honestly couldn't answer.  It's not the first time this has happened to me. When you've grown up on a small island where everyone knows you, these kinds of interactions are the norm. So in that moment, I gave the answer that seems to be the default one in my life lately. I said, "I don't know." I was taken off guard and not sure what else to say, but as I revisited the conversation in my head later on, I realized my answer was incomplete.

To the person who asked me about my future, here's what I really meant to say:

Up until a few years ago, I had all the plans. I had a five year plan, ten year plan, probably even a twenty year plan. I thought I had my life entirely figured out... until one day I realized I didn't.

Over a period of a few months in early 2016, I started to question a lot of things in my life. The five year plan I had come up with during my college years wasn't exactly unfolding the way I expected. The more I thought about the future, the more anxious I became. I started looking everywhere for answers, except for the one place I knew I could truly find them: in the arms of Jesus.

On April 6, 2016, I made a decision to surrender my life and plans to the Lord, to finally obey the call I'd heard for so long and seek Him with my whole heart.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
- Jeremiah 29:13

And that I did. Almost two years later, I still haven't found all the answers that I was seeking. But I've discovered something better: hope and confidence in the One who does have the answers, the One who loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and has engraved me on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).

In just twenty months, God has turned my life upside down and filled it with new passions, dreams, and desires. He has given me a new sense of purpose in my life, a passion for His Word, and has placed a burning desire in my heart to share it with others. I am still full of questions, probably even more than before. Surrendering my plans to Him has been difficult and admittedly scary, but with surrender comes freedom. Day by day, I am learning to live by the promise of Matthew 6:33-34.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 
- Matthew 6:33-34

 A few months ago, God planted a new dream in my heart, one that wasn't on my original five or ten year plan - to pursue an online master's degree in Christian Ministry. It's a big dream, an exciting dream, a scary dream, but I'll be honest - I have no idea how God will use this dream or what exactly it means for my life and future. I may not know how He will use it, but I know He will. I don't have all the answers and I'm learning to be okay with that. I'm also learning that oftentimes faith requires action without answers. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

To the person who asked me about my future, I meant what I said to you a few days ago. I was telling the truth when I said, "I don't know." But what I really meant to say was, "I don't know, but God knows." I will never have all the answers, but I can trust in Him because He does.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" 
- Romans 11:33

I no longer have a five or ten year plan and maybe that seems foolish. But I've realized that a plan without God is one that isn't worth making. I've realized that I would rather walk with the Lord day by day - even if it is painfully slow - than run ahead of Him. He's teaching me that my purpose isn't found in the answers; my purpose is found in Christ. As I enter this new year, I will still ask questions, have dreams, and yes, even make plans, but hold onto them loosely. In 2018, I will choose to cling tightly to the only permanent thing in a world full of temporary - the hope I profess in Christ (Hebrews 10:23). In 2018, I will cling to God's promises and His truth, with the assurance that He is working in all things for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." 
- Proverbs 19:21

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Problem With Stuff: One Teacher's Take on Having #AllTheThings

Recently, on my vacation to the US, I bought a trash can. Yes, a trash can. Did I need it? No, not really. But it was cute, it was from Target, and it was only $3, so I bought it for my classroom.

I don't know about you, but that last sentence has come out of my mouth a lot over the four years that I've been teaching. And somehow, in those four years, I've managed to accumulate a lot of stuff.

By now, if you're a teacher reading this, you're probably trying to rationalize. "But buying stuff comes with the territory when you're a teacher," you might say. "It's different from any other job." And I agree. However, I am realizing that my "stuff" problem doesn't just show up in my classroom; it's in my home too. It's in my closet, in my drawers, on my desk. Everywhere I look, there's so. much. stuff.

I'm realizing that the problem with stuff is that you always want more. As a teacher or just as a human being, I may think that is perfectly fine. But as a Christian, I know better. I know that there's more to life than having more.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 
- Matthew 6:19-21

God has been using this verse over the past year to remind me that all these things, these earthly treasures if you will, are temporary. He's been teaching me that putting my hope in something temporary will always lead to disappointment. Temporary things can never bring permanent joy and fulfillment. Only Christ can do that in our lives.

"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'" 
- John 6:35 

Sadly, we live in a world that tries to convince us otherwise. Everywhere we look - especially on social media - we're bombarded with the message that we need to have #allthethings in order to be happy and successful. And we get the idea that if we don't have the same things as everyone else, we're missing out. This message has trickled into the teaching community over the last few years, and many teachers - myself included - have fallen into the trap.

In 1 Timothy 6:17, we are told "not to be arrogant nor to put [our] hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put [our] hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
I love the last part of that verse because it reminds me that God doesn't want us to not have money or nice things. In fact, He's provided us with things for our enjoyment. In the Old Testament, we're told that God blessed King Solomon with more wealth than any other king (1 Kings 3:13). God is not opposed to wealth and possessions. What He is opposed to is the attitude of dependence and greed that we often develop towards wealth and possessions. Instead of owning possessions, our possessions end up owning us. Even Solomon, who was arguably the richest man who ever lived, concluded that riches and possessions are ultimately meaningless.

"Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless." 
- Ecclesiastes 5:10 

When I finally made it home from my vacation on Thursday night, I unzipped my suitcase and took out that trash can that had looked so enticing in the Dollar Spot just a few days earlier. It had made it through the journey, albeit with a new dent or two. I had stuffed some clothes inside of it to take up space and hopefully offer some protection, but I guess my plan hadn't worked as well as I'd hoped. After I removed each crumpled piece of clothing, I looked at the trash can - a little banged up and totally empty. The thought came to my mind that my life is often a lot like that trash can. To maintain appearances, I fill it with things that seem to offer security and protection, but just end up leaving me bruised and empty.

It has been difficult for this self-confessed shopaholic to admit the truth that God has been bringing to my attention over the last few months - that despite what Instagram is telling me, having #allthethings won't make me a better teacher. I recently came across a quote by Richard L. Evans that really struck me:

"Children will not remember you for the material things that you provided, but for the feeling that you cherished them."

It's easy for me to forget that although my students enjoy having a nice classroom with cool rewards and incentives, what they really yearn for is my love. This year, I want to invest in my class more than my classroom. I want to give these precious children my time, energy, grace, and love above all else. I want to show them the "great love [my] Father has lavished on [me]" (1 John 3:1) so that they will know more than anything that they are loved and cherished. Because that's what it's all about, isn't it? Not #allthethings, but #allthelove.

As I prepare to start the new school year in the next couple of weeks, I invite you to pray with me for our students and each other. To pray that our hearts will be focused on what's most important and that love and grace would be our top priority in our classrooms this year.

"'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.'" 
- John 13:34-35

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Reflections from The Year I Almost Left Teaching

"I'm thinking about taking a year off from teaching next year," I said to my principal with tears in my eyes.

When I first started teaching four years ago, I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else. When people asked me how long I intended to teach, I would always look at them like they were crazy and tell them I was going to keep teaching until I was old enough to retire. For me, teaching wasn't a temporary thing or a step on the ladder to some bigger and better career. Teaching was a calling. So how did I end up in this place a few months into the school year?

To give you some background, I teach at a pretty small school, with approximately only 60 students total from Pre-K to 5th grade. Yes, you read that correctly. 60 students. As you probably figured, there is only one teacher for each grade level because most classes have no more than 12 students. Teaching at such a small school allows me to know exactly who is going to be in my class the following year. Last summer, I knew I had a challenge ahead of me. I was getting the class that has by far the most behavior problems of any class at my school. Although classroom management has always been a struggle for me, I was determined to do my best and to build relationships with these students. I even wrote a blog post at the end of the summer last year detailing the journey I had been on in my faith and sharing my desire to show the love of Christ to my students in the upcoming school year.

And boy, did those words haunt me throughout the school year. Because if I'm being honest, a lot of the time, I didn't show my students the love of Christ. Instead of love, I often showed impatience, anger, and weariness. For the first time in my teaching career, I truly understood the struggle of Paul in Romans 7:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 
- Romans 7:15-19

I felt like a failure. All of the behavior issues, additional paperwork, and personal stresses had started to take a toll on me and I came home feeling tired every day. I felt myself beginning to lose the joy and zeal I'd had for teaching since the day I stepped into my first classroom four years ago. I began to wonder if this was God's way of telling me to step away from teaching for a while.

And so that day came, when I broke down in my principal's office - something I had never done before - and told her about my struggle and the doubts I was having. She is the sweetest and most supportive principal anyone could ask for and of course told me she wanted me to stay, that she knew I would get through this and was willing to support me in any way she could.

Shortly after that, I began doing a Bible study with a group of women on the Fruit of the Spirit. I learned so much through that study and began to see a purpose in everything I had been going through. Even though I had been on a spiritual journey of sorts since April 2016 and could see evidence of God's transformation in my life, there were many areas I was still lacking in. One of the points from the Bible study that stood out to me when we looked specifically at patience was that we need those people who test our patience. And oftentimes, God places those people in our lives to show us that we're not as mature as we think we are, so that we can become aware of what we lack and where God needs to work in us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 
- James 1:2-4

This realization made me look at my struggles with my students in a completely different way. You see, during a time in my life where it would have been easy to look back at my spiritual growth and become self-righteous, God gave me exactly what I needed. He showed me that there were areas of my life that I needed to surrender to Him in order to bear fruit. He showed me that teaching - the one thing in my life that I always thought I could do on my own - was something that would be impossible for me without His help.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." 
- John 15:5

One of the things I've always loved about teaching is that while we're teaching, we're also learning. In fact, teaching is a career where we never stop learning. This year, I think I learned more than I have any other year. I learned that God's grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), and that He is working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28). I learned that although I may fail, He never does. In every trial, He has a purpose and He will complete the good work that He has started in me (Philippians 1:6).

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Classroom Tour 2016-2017

I thought this would never happen, but I am finally posting my 2016-2017 classroom tour! I always have big plans to take all my classroom photos and post them at the beginning of the year, but the never ending back-to-school to do list seems to get in the way every time. I think I'll just blame it on island time. ;) Anyway, hope you enjoy this little tour of my classroom!

Here is the view from my doorway, looking towards my classroom library:

Here is a closer look at my classroom library. I love this area of the room and the kids do too!

All of the color in this area makes my teacher heart happy. My book bins are from Steps to Literacy. The bins on the shelf to the left hold our leveled fiction books and the bins on the smaller shelf/reading bench hold our nonfiction books (see picture below). Both shelves, the two saucer chairs, and my lamp are from Walmart. The little table is a family antique that I spruced up for my classroom last year and the chevron rug is from Overstock. (It is from the Mohawk Home brand, but I am not sure if it is still available.) The tassel banner on the small bulletin board is from Schoolgirl Style and the welcome banner is from Teacher Created Resources.

One of my favorite additions to my classroom library this year is this huge Dr. Seuss quote! I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut it out of vinyl. This made it much easier to put up on the wall. I can't imagine putting up a huge quote like this letter by letter. The font is KG Next To Me Solid. I printed the Melonheadz clip art poster-size, then cut out the pieces, and taped them together. Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd has a tutorial for this if you're interested in doing it in your classroom. 

This is a close up of our classroom rules. They are free (and editable!) from Lucky to Be in First. I bought some cheap black frames from Walmart to frame them and they fit perfectly on the window sill. The throw pillows in my saucer chairs came from Target.

The photo above gives you a closer look at the main bookshelf in my classroom library. I found the wooden READ letters at Michael's a few years ago and spruced them up with paint and washi tape. The quote inside the frame is part of a freebie chalkboard set from Khrys Bosland and the book bin labels are from A Cupcake for the Teacher. The Officer Buckle craftivity that is on display is from Caitlin Clabby at Kindergarten Smiles.

To the left of that shelf are my new display shelves, which are actually IKEA spice racks! (If you frequent Pinterest, you'll know this is definitely not a new idea, but it's something I've always wanted to try out in my classroom.) I bought these little book buddies from Amazon and decided to display them here. I love how this little area turned out! (Well, except for the fact that the top shelf should probably have been a few inches lower. haha. Hopefully I can lower it at some point.) The plan is to switch out the books throughout the year, although as you can see, I kind of dropped the ball on that in the midst of the beginning of the year craziness. #oops. 

Moving to the right of my classroom library, you'll see my computer and Smart Board. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll notice I don't usually post pictures of this area of the room because all of the cords and wires drive me crazy! This is where we meet for Math lessons, but my students also love to use this rug (from Amazon) during independent reading, writing, and other times during the day. We keep our book boxes on the top shelf of the built-in shelving and the bottom shelf is used to hold word work games, chapter books, clipboards, and writing journals. 

If you looked at my classroom pictures from last year, you'll notice my counters and cabinets are different. They were recovered this summer and I love the new look! In this photo, you can see more of the west wall. This wall is pretty much all bulletin boards and cabinets. To maximize space, I put my number posters on the cabinets. 

I love this wall in my classroom! I had the pennant banners (from Target) up from last year, but this year I decided to add the "Be" quotes under each set of banners. I cut the letters from Astrobrights paper using my Cameo. It turned out even better than I expected and makes such a statement in the room! If you do not have a Silhouette or Cricut and would like to make these quotes for your room, you can check out my Be Brave Be Kind Be You Decor Kit in my TPT store.

The picture below gives a much better look at this area. This is obviously a picture from the very beginning of the year, but I included it anyway since it was the best one I had of this wall.

I made new number posters this year and love how they stand out against my light cabinets! I have them posted in two different font styles (and also with a white background) in my TPT store if you are interested. The banner on my bucket filler board is from From the Pond and can be found here

I ordered these paper baskets from Really Good Stuff and they have been such a lifesaver this year! They help to keep my dreaded paper piles under control and my students have even caught on to using them! (For example, the student passing out papers knows any extras go in the extras bin and they know to turn in their work in the turn in bin.) These are a mix of the Neon and Rainbow sets. I made the basket labels to match my number posters. An editable set can be found here

Moving further along this wall, you'll see a full view of my Writing board. This is where our Writer's Workshop anchor charts go. We just finished our first unit and are about to start narrative writing, so I cleared the board to make room for new charts. This little table serves a variety of purposes in our classroom. It's not only a Writing center, but is also used by my assistant to work with individual students or as a cool down spot by students who need a break.

Last year I had my Writing Center choices on the actual bulletin board, but this year I decided to display them under the board to make more room for anchor charts. This little chalkboard pencil from Target was the perfect addition to this area! I cut the words from white vinyl using my Silhouette Cameo and stuck them right on. I love how the pencil points to the writing choices and adds a cute touch to the area.

The writing choices (and the Write pennant banner) are from Seusstastic's Ultimate Writing station pack, which can be found here.

Just under my Writing board, near my door, you'll see our brag tag display. I started brag tags mid-year last year and used a bulletin board to display them. While this was really cute, I wanted a more functional way to display them without sacrificing bulletin board space. These are two racks from Walmart that are screwed in side by side. I used die-cut chalkboard pieces from Hobby Lobby to cover the area above each hook. The best part about this solution is that my students can easily reach their brag tag necklaces now, whereas before, I had to help some students reach their necklaces on the bulletin board.

Let's zoom out on the south wall in my classroom. This is what you see when you stand at the large shag rug by the Smart Board. The paper lanterns are from Oriental Trading. I hung them with black ribbon and tied bows to add a cute look (inspired by KinderCraze).

A little closer... The paper fans are a new addition this year and are from PomLove on Etsy. I love the pop of color they add! In the middle of the paper fan display, I have a chalkboard quote that I bought at a local store. It says "Speak the truth even if your voice shakes." :)

In the picture above, you get a better look at my small group table. I don't have a desk, so this little table does double duty. It is a wooden table but I covered the surface with chalkboard contact paper from Walmart. The stools are the same ones from last year (from IKEA), but I decided to spray paint them this year for an extra pop of color.

On the left side of this wall is the inside of my classroom door, which is decorated with this awesome quote from Maya Angelou. Last year, my door was white and boring. I knew I wanted to spruce it up this year and I love how it turned out! If you want to find out more about how I made this display, check out my blog post here.

Edit: Since this post was written, I have created a decor kit with the quote and circles to make it easy for you to re-create in your own classroom. If you would like to find out more, you can view the product here.

To the right of my door is my helpers bulletin board. This board displays my classroom jobs. The display from Amy Groesbeck and can be found here. The banner is also from Amy's store. You've probably noticed by now that I've used them on almost all of my bulletin boards!

Underneath this bulletin board, I have backpack hooks for my students that are labelled with their numbers (labels from Creative Teaching Press). Yes, I only have 11 students. :) One of the perks of teaching on a small island!

Moving on to my area of the classroom! Since I don't have a desk, this space holds a lot of my supplies and materials. I love all the color in this area! On the window sill, I have my "hello" sign from Target and some tissue paper flowers in vases. I wasn't planning on putting them there, but I found those cute little vases in a local shop and just had to find some way to use them! 

Here is a closer look. The 10-drawer rainbow cart is from Walmart and mostly holds materials for Guided Reading. Last year, I didn't have labels on the cart and it became a little bit of hot mess. This year, I removed the knobs from the drawers and used Miss West Best's editable labels to help me stay more organized. I also have my teacher toolbox (labeled with Teach Create Motivate's editable labels), and my daily bins for Guided Reading (from Steps to Literacy). I made the days of the week labels to match the other black and brights decor and have an editable set available in my TPT store. On the bottom shelf, I have my fabric drawers that were included with the shelf (from Walmart) and those hold various Math and Literacy games, art supplies, extra school supplies, etc.

This year I added these Sterilite drawers to hold my daily copies and extra subject copies. The labels are from Learning in Wonderland's Let's Get Organized bundle on TPT. The pails resting on top hold some supplies that I wanted to have easy access to, such as scissors, anchor chart markers, guided reading wands etc. I believe all of the pails came from the Target Dollar Spot. Hanging above the drawers, you'll see my pencil sign from Tallahassee Sunday. I love it and my kiddos refer to it whenever they need to spell my name!

Here is a better look at this corner of the room. The door in the picture is for my closet. I painted it with chalkboard paint too, but haven't added anything to it yet due to the limited space with the vents. I am thinking I will have my kiddos sign their names on it with chalk to celebrate their sight word mastery or something similar. Above the door is my "It's time to learn" clock from Mardel. Who says clocks can't be cute? ;)

This shelf holds my monthly read alouds and a few other items. I labeled the bins (from Really Good Stuff) with chalkboard labels and put them in order from September to June. It has been so helpful so far to have all my read alouds organized and within reach! The bottom area of the shelf is used to hold smaller supplies (in the mini drawer set), my brag tags and reward coupons, and some binders.
Above the shelf, I have some more chalkboard accents. The two signs next to my phone are from Jo-Ann's. The four mini chalkboards are actually wooden plaques from Michael's that I painted black. I printed our school rules (based on the acronym SAFE) and modpodged them to the plaques so that we would have them to refer to each day.

This little area is another happy spot. :) The shelf holds our whiteboards and Math manipulatives (labels from Amy Groesbeck). On the top, I have more of Khrys Bosland's quote posters in frames, with a bouquet of tissue paper flowers in the middle. I ended up adding confetti to the vase to hide the flower stems and love the colorful and whimsical look it adds. The blue polka dot board is from Hobby Lobby and holds all the notes from my little sweeties. :) I found an Astrobrights circle banner kit at Walmart over the summer and decided to add a small one over the board to tie in with the color scheme. 

This is a look at the front wall in my classroom. The board on the left was originally a green chalkboard, so I covered it up and it now serves as a word wall. The magnetic board makes it super easy to add words and allows students to borrow words to write them if necessary. My alphabet posters are from Miss Giraffe and the calendar set on my whiteboard is from Teacher Created Resources.

You'll notice in the picture above that I've added large Sterilite drawers and caddies this year. I am stuck with desks for now, but wanted to keep my students' books and basic supplies in a central location. I spray painted the drawer frames green, blue, and pink to match my table colors. The supply caddies are from Really Good Stuff. I spruced them up with a curly ribbon bow from Michael's and Amy Lemons' free labels. The matching bowls on each group of desks are used as our tidy tubs and hold our paper scraps during cutting activities. Those came from a local store.

This year I decided to move my bucket filler message center from the plastic shoe hanger. I bought some s-hooks and ordered new buckets from Oriental Trading. The hooks hang perfectly on the ledge and it has been so convenient to have the buckets at the front of the room! The posters under the buckets are from Rulin' the Roost's Bucket Filler pack.

Our learning objectives are displayed in frames under the word wall and white board. It is super easy to write on the frames with a dry erase marker! The blank subject posters are from True Life I'm a Teacher. Underneath our learning objectives is our Marzano scale (from Alma Almazan), which we use to assess our learning.

A view from the other side. The pink, green, and blue containers (from Michael's) hold calendar pieces. If you look closely, you can see they are actually attached to clips on this rainbow chevron thing (from Target). This idea originally came from Teaching is a Treasure on Instagram.

Right next to my whiteboard is our birthday display from Cupcakes 'n Curriculum and our hand signal posters. The hand signal posters were a freebie from Jessica Travis at Wild About Firsties a few years back, but are no longer available. However, she has a new free set of hand signal posters in a different design, so check those out if you are in need of some.

I originally ordered this little table from Walmart as a Writing Center table a few years ago. But as you can see, it ended up being much shorter than what I expected. I have put it to use a little supply station of sorts. It works perfectly because the kids can reach everything easily. You have probably noticed my pencil buckets are in a sad state. haha I am still wondering where all those pencils have gone! (The sharp and dull labels are a freebie in my TPT store if you are interested.) I labeled the mini Sterilite drawers with Learning in Wonderland's labels and am using them to hold extra crayons. This has been such a lifesaver this year because all those misplaced crayons now have a home!

And that wraps up the tour! Whew! I did warn you that there would be a lot of pictures. :) I hope you enjoyed looking at my little home away from home. Let me just say that my first year of teaching, my classroom did not look anything like this. It took several years to bring this vision to life! At the end of the day, a nicely decorated classroom is not the most important thing, but it is something I genuinely enjoy doing and gets me excited about going back to work after the summer. What I love the most about my classroom are the eleven sweet kiddos I get to share it with each day! They love our bright and colorful learning space as much as I do and we truly enjoy being here every week!

Thanks for taking the time to go on this little tour with me! I tried to include links and sources for most of the products and decor, but please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

How to Recreate my Classroom Door

Today I am blogging about an area of my classroom that has gotten a lot of attention on Instagram and Facebook: my door! I am humbled by all of the people who have become inspired by my door and wanted to provide a bit more information for those who are interested in re-creating it in their classrooms.

I knew I wanted to paint my door with black chalkboard paint and display some sort of inspirational quote on it. Since I turned my black and brights theme into more of a chalkboard rainbow theme this year, I decided a colorful display with the word rainbow was right up my alley. I literally googled "rainbow quote" and found this awesome inspirational quote by Maya Angelou. 

My door has a window in it so I wanted to play around with the design first and make sure that it fit with the dimensions of my door. I found a super easy way to do that without doing anything to my actual door. Are you ready for this tip? All I did was take a picture of my blank door, insert it in PowerPoint and type the quote. I was able to play around with different fonts, colors, and sizes to get my design exactly how I wanted it. To fill the leftover space, I inserted circles on the top, found some pom pom images online, and added a cloud image to the bottom. It really didn't take long! The best part about this trick is that you can use it to figure out the sizing of your letters. If you measure the width and height of your door, you can use the photo as a scale to figure out how many inches each letter needs to be. The picture below shows how my PowerPoint design turned out!

Once I figured out the dimensions of my letters, I went to work cutting them out on my Silhouette Cameo. (If you don't have a Cameo or a Cricut yet, I highly recommend investing in one or putting it on your Christmas list this year. It is worth every penny!) I cut the letters for "rainbow" and the circles on the top out of Astrobrights paper. I used regular Astrobrights paper because that was all I had, but I would recommend using cardstock if you're able to. The words "be a" and "in someone else's" were cut out of white vinyl. (In case you're wondering, the "in" is missing in this picture because I had temporarily lost it. haha. Thank goodness it turned up the next day!) The word "cloud" was cut from white cardstock, mainly because I ran out of white vinyl and there are no stores here that sell it. #islandproblems. I attached the circles and paper letters to the door using double-sided mounting tape. It took a few tries to position some of them correctly, so I didn't press down too hard on the tape until I was sure they were in the right place.

Next, I added the cloud. I was originally going to use white paint on the bottom of my door, but was running out of time and decided to try out a jumbo chalkboard marker that I purchased from Hobby Lobby over the summer. It worked better than I thought it would and I was glad that I was able to have some sort of chalk on the door. (Originally, my plan was to use chalkboard makers on the whole door, but I'm definitely not artistic enough for that!)

Finally, it was time to add my pom poms. Unfortunately, I only had mint and pink pom-poms from one of my trips to Target this summer. I knew I wanted a variety of colors on the door, but didn't want all my Target pom poms to go to waste. I read online that pom poms could be spray painted and had some leftover spray paint from other classroom projects so I tried it out. And it worked! Check out my blue and green spray painted pom poms in the picture below. The mint pom pom on the left is what they originally looked like. You can see in the picture that they are a little stiffer and shinier than the mint pom pom, but it is hardly noticeable and they work just fine! You would probably be better off just buying the colors you want or making your own, but when you live on a 12 mile island where there are no pom poms for sale and tissue paper in limited colors, you resort to this kind of stuff. 

I had orange tissue paper so I ended up making an orange pom pom using a tutorial I found online. I would have preferred to have a purple pom pom to keep with my rainbow colors, but there was no purple spray paint or tissue paper, so the mint one was there to stay. Check out the finished product below! I was so excited to see my vision come to life and this is one of my favorite areas of my room!

I have added a picture with the fonts I used below if you would like to use the same ones. The fonts that start with PB are from A Perfect Blend on TpT and and can be purchased here. The KG font that I used for the word "cloud" is by Kimberly Geswein and is free for personal use. That font can be downloaded here. Just an FYI: If I had to do it over again, I would probably use a different font for "in someone else's" because it was a little jagged around the edges and my poor Cameo blade had a rough time cutting those letters. 

Here is a side by side comparison of my PowerPoint design and the real thing. They aren't completely identical, but creating it in PowerPoint first was definitely a huge help! 

I hope this post inspires you to create a fun and colorful door quote in your classroom! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. And if you end up doing your own version of my door in your classroom, I would love to see how it turns out! Please tag me on Instagram @teachinginthetropicsblog, on Facebook (Teaching in the Tropics), or email me pictures at!

UPDATE: If you do not have a Silhouette or Cricut and would like to create this door, I now have a kit available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase! Click the picture below to go to the product page!

Also, if you want this quote in your classroom without the hassle of putting together a door display, I have created a free printable poster with this same design! Click on the picture below to download it in my TPT store!