Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament

Christmas has arrived in the land of Crafty Teacher Lady! I spent all day Sunday (and the last two nights) decorating for the holidays!! I'm hosting four separate holiday gatherings between now and New Years and so I want to make my home really special and welcoming to my guests!


I went to my favorite local farm stand to by my tree (fourth year in a row)...they sell such nice looking trees and I like to support local when I can. I plan to do a separate post featuring a little 'holiday home tour' but today I'd like to share a really clever ornament idea that's both easy and meaningful...

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament Craft Idea

My graduation tassels (from high school and college) have sat in a storage container basically since the day I graduated as I didn't really have much use of them after the ceremonies! By taking an expensive clear plastic ornament (purchased for $1 at WalMart) and adding my tassels, I now have a meaningful way to display and preserve these mementos.

Here's how to do it:
1) Purchase your clear plastic ornament
2) Remove the top metal piece
3) Remove the metal number from the tassel (it won't fit through the opening and into the ornament)
4) Push the bottom of the tassel into the ornament
5) Punch a small hole in the top of the metal piece (I used a leather belt hole punch purchased at a hardware store but you could use a hammer and nail or drill)
6) Thread the tassel string up through the hole
7) Thread the metal numbers with the tassel string
8) Hand on your tree and let the memories of graduation day flood back into your mind!


The tassel from my high school graduation is extra special to me now since I'm back teaching at my Alma mater! I'm going to share the idea with my senior students since I'm sure their tassels will just end up in storage otherwise! This would make a really great graduation gift, too!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advice on Becoming a Teacher

 A few weeks ago I received the email below from one of my followers on Instagram:

Hi Kelly-Anne,

I am sending you a quick note asking for a little advice on becoming a social studies teacher. 

A little about me: I am a college junior majoring in secondary education with a concentration in social studies/history and I have an overwhelming passion for U.S. History and government! As I begin to think about life after graduation, I have been asking for advice and talking to several educators and administrators, including a few of my high school history teachers. The majority of responses I am getting are making me terrified of becoming a teacher. From the low pay, to new common core standards - I am being very negatively influenced on the profession. One of my favorite teachers has now quit teaching after just four years in the school system and has made me question my college major. I feel overwhelmed because people say teaching is the hardest job and you aren't rewarded and compensated like teachers should be. I understand that I won't become rich being an educator, and I am OK with that :) 

I am hoping you can share your teaching experience with me because you seem to love what you do, and you look so very happy! I admire you and I only hope to be the crafty teacher you are someday. 

Thanks!



It took me a little while to respond as it's sort of a daunting question...what advice can I give those looking to enter the teaching profession? Here was my response:


Hello!

First, thank you for the lovely compliment at the end of your email...I am, for the most part, very happy in my life and chosen career!  I, too, majored in secondary education with a concentration in social studies (focusing on US History) and was very excited and passionate about my area of studies! I'd like to disagree with what others have said to you about the low pay, low recognition, and high stress, but I can't. Those are all very real downsides to this profession. I'd also like to say that I hadn't seriously considered leaving the teaching profession for some other career choice but I can't say that either because I have, at one point or another, thought about other career paths. 

I've heard and read that over half of all new teachers quit within the first 5 years (so it doesn't surprise me that your favorite teacher quit after only 4 years in) and I, too, personally know friends/colleagues who quit after only a few years. It's an extremely demanding career field where you will work harder than you ever imagined. There will be lots of days where you will work yourself ragged and will be so very patient but still wonder 'am I really making any difference here'? Some teenagers can be ruthless (I use the word 'some' because others are thoughtful, helpful, and kind) and can be very quick to complain.  It's hard to not take that personally but you will eventually realize that it's often times not really about you and really more about them.

I still remember my days as a student teacher where I would spend hours coming up with what I thought were such creative, fun, engaging lessons and activities only to have my bubble burst when some kids would still complain about what we were doing and wouldn't complete their classwork, homework, or any work at all! I almost gave up right then and there because I thought 'what's the point of working this hard if they're just going to complain'? But, luckily my mentor teacher told me he thought I was going to make a really good teacher and that I should stick with it.


Here I am 11 years later and I'm still in the trenches! So, here's the good side...if you can learn to tune out and/or tolerate the bureaucratic nonsense that is public education, the parents who enable their kids to be lazy and entitled, the increasing demands from administration to do more with less time, the aforementioned complainers, and every other person who thinks they can do this job better than you (because obviously having once been a student means one is an expert on teaching), there's a lot to love about this job.

It feels really, really good teach someone something they didn't know before (like really good). It feels really good to show a kid kindness and patience and to see them make progress and reach goals. It feels really good to laugh out loud almost every day (because my kids can be so funny, witty, and clever). It feels good to put in a hard day's work and know that your life is dedicated to serving your community. It feels AMAZING when, every now and then, you get a letter or an email from a former student thanking you for not only teaching them something they are now using in their life but for teaching them to be kind & hard working people, especially when it's from a kid whom you never expected to receive such a note.

I am a more patient, more tolerant, more industrious, more creative, more enthusiastic, and better-educated person because I am a teacher. Until the cons outweigh the pros, a teacher I shall remain!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gratitude Cards

A few years ago I designed a set of gratitude cards that I use with my students in the days leading up to Thanksgiving break. I ask them each to take a moment to stop and reflect on all they have for which to be grateful...


They always surprise me with how thoughtful and reflective they can be! I tell them not to sign the cards (they tend to be more genuine when the cards are anonymous) and then I create a 'gratitude wall' in the hallway outside of my classroom. Passersby can stop and read all of the lovely sentiments!


https://app.box.com/s/iz086lypl6qt902rosv5
If you'd like to print your own gratitude cards, I've created a set of six on a page which can be downloaded here! Use them with your own students or at your Thanksgiving celebration!


I'm grateful for...

-The fact that I've been able to accomplish many of my life goals thus far
-My lovely little home...a dream come true
-My extremely generous family
-Parks and Recreation...laughter really is the best medicine
-Lifelong friends who know the 'real' me
-A career in which I get to make a real difference in people's lives

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Craft Club Magnetic Matchbox Advent Calendars

I'm so excited about starting a new club at school for students who share my love of crafting!! We had our first get-together this week and our craft project was making magnetic matchbox advent calendars for them to hang in their lockers and countdown to holiday vacation! A tutorial for making the advent calendar can be found here. It's a super easy, fun, and inexpensive project!

Magnetic Advent Calendar

I made some cute little signs to put up around the school advertising the club times and the project we would be making. I got a lot of positive feedback about starting the club from administration, staff, and students! 


Basic supplies are a ton of matchboxes (the people at the Dollar Store must have thought I was crazy for buying so many), scrapbook papers, magnet strips, and jingle bells for the top of the calendar. Glue sticks, rulers, and scissors are needed to put it all together.


I had 12 students and one teacher come to the first get-together, which turned out to be just the right amount of people so that I could easily walk around and assist if needed!



Because I wanted the students to be able to hang their calendars in their lockers at school, we designed the calendars with only 19 boxes as a way for them to 'countdown to holiday vacation' instead of counting down the days until Christmas.  We are a public high school, after all, so counting down to Christmas isn't exactly PC! Ha! They will fill the boxes with notes from friends, family, and teachers so each day they are greeted with a fun message!

DIY Advent Calendar Tutorial

They turned out SO CUTE!! And the kids had so much fun making them...we chatted, crafted, snacked, and listened to awesome '80s throwback jams!

The students have already asked when the next Craft Club meeting will be so my head is already turning with lots of ideas for projects we can make! My heart is also filled with happiness from spreading crafting joy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

10 Outfit & Style Ideas for Teachers

If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen my 'teacher outfit of the day' pictures, but if not, this post is for you! Although my school is pretty laid back when it comes to enforcing a staff dress code, most days my outfits are on the dressier side. Even on days I dress more casually, I try to ensure I look well put together when heading to work!

The places I tend to shop most frequently include Forever 21, Old Navy, H&M, Target, GAP outlet, and Banana Republic outlet. I do tend to find some great accessories and items at WalMart, too! I don't have a big budget (shocking...I'm a teacher so you would think I'd be rolling in the dough) but have found that creativity can really stretch ones wardrobe! The pictures to follow were all taken with my iPhone so the quality isn't the best, but hopefully you'll find some inspiration for your work attire nonetheless!

Outfit #1: Bold Color & Pattern
teacher style
The classic navy pencil skirt was only $12 at Forever 21 (I recently purchased it in gray also)! The navy belt came with a dress I purchased at WalMart but have repurposed here. The hot pink cardigan is from Banana outlet as is the lime green & white hounds tooth bow top! I went bold with the colors and think they play well off one another...don't be shy...go bold!

Outfit #2: Casual Friday
 My students said 'Miss Rush, your outfit looks like something I would wear' which I took as a compliment! Ha! I think the soft fall colors work well together here. The sweater is from H&M, the burnt orange tank was only $4 at Forever 21 (necklace is from Forever 21 as well...they have tons of fun and inexpensive accessories), boots were a splurge from my local Nine West outlet. Jeans are from Delias, a store for teens, but they have pant lengths for short people such as myself so I shop there for that reason!

Outfit #3: Feminine Neutrals
teacher outfit ideas
This is a really simple outfit but I love the soft colors and the bow detail of the neckline on the sweater. The top is from H&M, skirt is from Target, pumps are from Nine West outlet. I also have the shoes in black patent and really love how they look and feel (not too uncomfortable to be in all day). Purchasing classic pieces like the khaki pencil skirt & the nude pumps, really make it possible to mix and match my wardrobe.

Outfit #4: Fall Comfort
I LOVE this outfit because it's cute but so very comfortable! In this case, the plaid LL Bean scarf acts as a piece that ties the rest of the outfit together.  It's paired with a simple GAP outlet navy cardigan worn over a simple $13 heather purple dress from Forever 21. Navy tights and boots from Kohls finish off the look!

Outfit #5: MadMen
 I love this H&M sheath dress because you put on one item, and you're done! I felt like Joan from MadMen in this dress...classic and stands the test of time! I decided to pair the dress with a leopard print belt from Forever 21 to add a little bit of detail. Nude pumps keep the legs looking long...easy peasy! 

Outfit #6: Field Trip
 Dressing for a field trip in New England, in the rain, in November is not an easy task! It was cold and really windy and we had to walk outside around Salem all day. So, I paired my warmest blue wool sweater (purchased 10+ years ago at Old Navy) with my all time favorite Target purchase, this navy blue polka dot rain coat! Jeans are Delias and the Sperry wellies were purchased at Marshalls last year. They are warm, waterproof, and comfortable!

Outfit #7: Classic Teacher
When I think 'teacher style' I think of this outfit...a classic cardigan (Banana outlet) paired with a whimsical printed pencil skirt (Target) over a ruffle neckline button up shirt (Target). I wore this outfit for parent-teacher conferences and received lots of compliments!

Outfit #8: All About the Accessories
Here I've paired a pencil skirt from GAP outlet with classic white collared shirt topped with a navy blue Old Navy pullover. Without the accessories, the look would be a bit plain for my taste so I added a patent blue belt (Forever 21) and a gold bauble necklace from WalMart.

Outfit #9: Boho Chic
Another super easy outfit...dresses are the best! This bohemian-inspired paisley print dress from Forever 21 is paired with a belt, to cinch in my waist, and tan boots from Nine West (purchased in September). Really easy to put together but also very comfortable!

Outfit #10: Monochromatic with a Pop
And finally, a mono-chromatic look with a pop of red at the waist! This navy shirt dress from Old Navy is paired with navy tights and navy 'booties/shoeties'. I wasn't sure if I could pull off the bootie look as I'm pretty short and thought they would chop up my visual leg line. But, I think keeping the whole look mono-chromatic worked well.  This is an example of me going out of my comfort zone, albeit cautiously, to try something trendy...and isn't that what fashion is all about? Trying new things and having fun while doing it? My goal with work attire is to look put-together, conservative, and trendy all at the same time, while maintaining a strict budget!

Tell me, what are some of your favorite looks and places to shop on a budget?
Linking up to The Pleated Poppy for 'What I Wore Wednesday'!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Favorite Fall Recipes

Most of the leaves have fallen and the air is starting to turn crisp here in Maine! Autumn is arguably my favorite time of year. Between the beautiful colors, cozy warm sweaters, and pumpkin flavored goodies, it really cannot be beat! And, usually there's no snow to shovel, which is always a plus!
I have two 'go to' dishes that I serve or bring to parties. They are ALWAYS crowd-pleasers and are SO SIMPLE to make! I whipped up two dishes to share at my last get-together...
The pumpkin dip is a recipe that my friend Teal shared with me...it was a hit at her party and so I made it for mine. It did not disappoint! Everyone loved it and, again, it's SO simple to make. It's also pretty healthy considering it's a sweet dip!


 Pumpkin Dip Recipe:
-1 15oz can of pureed pumpkin
-1 box of vanilla flavored instant pudding
-1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
-1 8 oz. tub of whipped topping
-1 box of ginger snaps

Directions:
-Mix the pumpkin, packet of instant pudding, and pumpkin pie spice together with a whisk until combined. Stir in the thawed tub of whipped topping then refrigerate for one hour before serving. Use the ginger snaps to pair with the dip!

Optional:
I hollowed out a small pumpkin (again, thanks to my friend Teal for the idea) in which to serve the dip! Fun and festive...and the dip is sooooo good paired with the ginger snaps!



The second recipe has become my staple for any Fall/holiday party. I've served it at my family's Christmas gathering the past few years (as well as for Fall game nights) and people CANNOT get enough of my mulled cider! It's also very easy to make and tastes so sweet and spicy! The original recipe can be found here, although I've slightly adapted it as follows...

Spiced Mulled Cider Recipe
-1 gallon of real apple cider
-3 cinnamon sticks
-1 teaspoon whole cloves
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (optional)

Directions:
-Wrap the cinnamon sticks and cloves in cheese cloth and place in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the brown sugar.

-Pour the apple cider into the slow cooker (you probably won't be able to fit the whole gallon so just fit as much in as you can) and stir to dissolve the brown sugar.

-Heat the mixture on high until it bubbles, then turn the heat down to warm. This process usually takes a couple hours, so make sure you are preparing in advance!

-Serve with or without some spiced rum! I leave the rum next to the slow cooker and let people add it to their individual mugs as they please!


I'm telling you...people CANNOT get enough of the mulled cider or the pumpkin dip! 
Serve them at your next party and make your people happy! :)


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Classroom Tour: Decorations & Organization

I'm FINALLY posting a tour of my classroom! I actually snapped these pictures (with my iPhone) back in August when I was putting together my classroom. But, then school started and, well, time just slipped away! This is my blank slate...all the furniture was out in the hall so the floors could be waxed! Let's start to the right of the door and work our way around the room...


Next to the door I have a little shelf with supplies for the students to use (that shelf was free on the side of the road and I gave it a little makeover). I also have a bulletin board with some personal pictures, at which the students love to look!

To the left of the supply shelf I have a little table on which is my 'absent work' bin. Under the table are the recycling & returnable bottle bins. On the wall is my homemade 'Awesome' poster. You can see a tutorial for a similar sign, here!


This room has a serious lack of bulletin boards so I decided that I could use some Command strips to secure three inexpensive poster frames (picked up at WalMart) to the wall. This way I can easily swap out displays throughout the year in or on the poster frames.

 
 On the front wall I have a white board and one of two small bulletin boards...


I used my Silhouette Portrait cutting machine to cut out the letters for my bulletin boards and used inexpensive blue fabric from WalMart instead of paper for the background. I find that fabric is more durable than paper and is often far less expensive! The 'Work Hard' poster can be found here!


I made the pennant flags banner by cutting triangles out of fabric and sewing a simple straight stitch to string them together...


 In front I also keep my little personalized yard sale stool...

In the corner near the window is my desk area...I brought a shelf from home for storage and added a bulletin board, secured to the wall with more Command strips and covered in wrapping paper! I designed that poster and had it printed at Staples on foam board for $10!



 There is room for a little sitting area in front of my desk and the window so I added a comfy chair from Ikea (I also found a small inexpensive lime green rug from WalMart and added it to this area but didn't take a picture). I often stay late at school grading papers and wanted a comfy chair...as you can imagine, this chair is also very popular with my students!


In the other back corner of the room is a little table and library area. I bought the table for $1 at Goodwill and painted it before bringing it to school. The paper lanterns are from Christmas Tree Shops. They are a fun addition to this area...for some reason the boys LOVE to spin the lowest lantern!

I used painters tape to add a jumbo poster...damage free and easily removed! I ran out of tape part way through and am embarrassed to report that, four weeks later, the poster still looks like this! Ha!

 I bought the bookshelf from Target and it was originally in my living room. But, this room also suffers from a serious lack of shelving so I brought it to school to hold my collection of social studies related books and resources.

On the back wall I have another white board...on the top I put a fancier version of a fabric banner...this one has bias tape on top and double-sided pennants! 

 

I had a really large blank space on this wall so I used a $3 vinyl tablecloth from Christmas Tree Shops and secured it to the wall with painters tape (over which I taped bulletin board trim). I think I'll turn it into an 'AWESOME' wall where the kids can put things that are...well...awesome!
Classroom decoration ideas

We've come full circle around the room! I think the key to making the room look cohesive is to pick a few main colors to work with. In my room, lime green, hot pink, and teal blue are the colors of choice! Outside of my classroom I went a little off kilter with the colors by adding this homemade 'Hello Sunshine' sign...


I wanted people to walk by my room and be greeted with a little bit of happiness! Subsequently, one of my fellow teachers stops and yells 'Hello Sunshine' every time he passes my room! It's pretty awesome!  So, there you have it, my home away from home! To follow along with my daily shenanigans, come visit me on Instagram!

Classroom decor ideas