Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Brag Tag Revolution

No, really. That's what's happening right now. If you happen to not be familiar with Lucky Little Learner's Brag tags... let me scream to you tell you how this has forever caused a "sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc." Go ahead. Look up the term "revolution." This is the exact definition and explanation to what Angie's tags have done for me, my students, and my classroom. I've been teaching for over 18 years and I could kick myself for not finding these gems earlier. And then I'm always reminded of Kayla's @Top Dog Teaching famous motto that she holds in her classroom, "Everyone's a teacher. Everyone's a learner." #ongoinglearner <I swear, I'm learning like 20 times a day!>  So, with this, I am grateful to just have learned late, than never.

Want the truth of why I initially jumped into the Brag Tag frenzy in the first place? Well, I'm going to tell you regardless. There's no stopping me when I get this excited and passionate about something. I just do and ask for forgiveness later. <there's another truth, btw> Ok, well, Lucky Little Learners just came out with the cutest, stock images of animals for her tags! I just knew that my kids would adore it as much as I did. I mean, the one where the cat gives a high-5, really?! I can't help but think of "Kitty High-5" on GoNoodle, too. Goodness. It is cuteness overload and I just haaad to have them! Wait until you see the rest of them. You. Will. Die. (you know what I mean!)


My journey then begins. Brag Tags, here I come... but first, the chains. I looked at Michael's and JoAnn's and could not find anything at a decent price. I needed 35! Ugh. These places need to be way more understanding that most of their customers run on a teacher's salary. Anywho, I found exactly what I needed on Amazon. Two days later they were on my doorstep. Yay, me!

Now, I'm not going to go over the ins and outs of how to use the Brag Tag, as the teacher author, Angie Olson, does the best job of that. So, go read that fabulous post! However, I can SHOW you exactly what my class has accomplished because of these tags! We actually renamed them to "Champion Tags" because the children hold their heads that much higher when you refer to them as champions. :)

We love our Champion Tags because...

1. We learned our 44 presidents, in order!
video

2. We learn to share.




















3. We create bonus assignments for ourselves to present in front of other people.



















4. We learned how to read Braille.



















5. We think about others.






6. We strive!!!                                          
                                                                         
You may ask me how I personally hand these out... My rule of thumb for my students is that, "If you 'move' me in any way, where I want to jump up and down, scream from the rooftops, and you have gone above and beyond my expectations... then YOU deserve a tag!" My children may simply "move" me by the simple acknowledgement of kindness through others: "Mrs. DeMarti, you may not know this, but Johnny stopped playing with his friends to play with me because he knew that I was sad and alone." Seriously?! Both students, on both accounts showed excellent citizenship. It's important for the children to recognize the good in others at an early age. Bottomline, these tags bring out the VERY BEST in my students and are awarded not only something so "simple" as a tag, but the huge accomplishment that went along with it.

Now, go get your "Tag" on! And if you already do, pretty please let me know how they have revolutionized your classroom!

xo,
Janice






Saturday, March 12, 2016

Just Play

Yup, you heard me. Just play! <ok, sorry for screaming> I just become super passionate about the advocacy for play in the classrooms. My sweet friend Holly at Research and Play just reminded me of how important this topic is. Check out her #TPT giveaway and see how she and her followers do play in their classrooms. And when I say play, I mean getting on the floor and playing with Legos, building a fort, playing dress-up, or creating signs for your classroom. I teach 2nd grade and I still try to squeeze in those moments of pure, uninterrupted-by-an-adult play. Why? Because when I do, this is what happens...

athletes playing with artists
collaboration
encouragement
laughing
problems being solved
empathy
controlled chaos
silliness
happiness
memories
learning



I seriously could cry when I witness my unstoppable athlete play dolls with my most gentle girl in the classroom. Not to mention the mix of boys and girls making signs for a Kendama Club (yes, it's a thing) and collaborating about the different ideas of what the club entails. Or how about the group of kids playing with dinosaurs roaring, laughing, and building extravagant dinosaur lands?! I mean, c'mon!!! The friendships that they're building, memories they're making, and the ability to completely remove themselves from any worry or challenges that may be going on in their lives is priceless. Golden. In case you don't understand... there is no amount of money you can put down for witnessing a child in a state of pure happiness.



After reading all of that and seeing pure bliss, one might naturally think, "Great! I'm in! Just do it already. And remind me again why everyone is NOT doing it?!" This is the challenging part for a teacher... ready... you know what it is already... wait for it... the ongoing complaint of time. Not enough time. Time! Time! Time! Gosh, darnit, already. We have "umpteen" workbooks to complete, ten thousand standards to teach, and testing to match those standards. And don't forget the 10 minutes it takes to line up (in a straight line and I'm-gonna-wait-til-it's-quiet kind of line), eating, outside play, specialty classes, and the 15 minutes that I need to connect with my kids with the simple, "Tell me something exciting, fun, or relaxing you did! Any joys or concerns?" So, that "little" block of time that you were hoping to give to the kids, well, it's gone. Bell rang. Class dismissed. Ugh!

Truly, however, all I need to do is remember those happy, smiling faces to force myself to just put that "Free Choice" time in my lesson plan book and... JUST PLAY! Yes! It's like scheduling a doctor's appointment. Book that time. Be diligent about giving the kids that gift that they probably won't get much of outside of the classroom. Their "play-days" are numbered and it's up to us to fill their memory banks with as many giggles, love, and happiness as much as we can. 20 minutes. It's possible. It makes a difference. Call it what you may, but the children ARE learning!



Go ahead now. Time's a ticking... #TeachersplanPlay

xo,
Janice

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Celebrating Love

It's a Lovefest Up In Here...

The best way our family knows how to celebrate this day is always through our annual Carpet Picnic! When you have children and a full-time career, going out on a date, or seeking out any lovey-dovey time, alone with your significant other, is pretty challenging. And... come in a lil closer... sshhhh... I actually love spending some of Valentine's Day with the kids. I know! Crazy, huh?! So, I thought really hard of how I could accomplish it all. You know, the whole "I've gotta work a whole day, after I've made goodies for my entire class the night before, gather valentine goodies for my own kiddos so that they feel special, look somewhat decent for the hubby so that he is reminded why I'm his Valentine in the first place, and show everyone of how much I love them from the depths of my soul" kind of day. Phew. It's a lot. However, when you love deeply, you just make things happen. It was one of those 3am bright ideas that came to me one night screaming, "Carpet Picnic!"



I decided to grab some of their favorite foods and even coloring books and magazines. After prepping all of the goodies, I clear an area, and throw a blanket down! The snacking, reading, coloring, silliness commences. Once upon a time we used to picnic right on top of our king-size bed, but then the 3rd child came along, and the kids got bigger. <I'm not a fan of spilled coffee on my bed, thank you very much> So, we moved festivities to the floor. Every year seems to be a little different than the last one, as the food depends on what day this special event lands on. If we're at work and school the whole day, we'll commence our picnic with some pizza, cupcakes, and maybe even a movie in the evening. If I'm lucky enough for it to land on the weekend, we will start off our day with breakfast goodies in our jammies. #becausewecan

This year was our best yet! Everyone lounged in their pj's eating breakfast treats on the floor; cinnamon rolls, crescent rolls, strawberries and cream, eggs n bacon muffins, lattes and Red Bull galore! When I grabbed some last minute goodies at Target, I came across a Charades box for $1. Hey! #whynot When the family recognizes all of the hard work I put into things such as this, they usually amuse me by doing whatever it is I ask of them. They're so good that way! ;) So, charades it was! And can I just say (why am I even asking, when I plan on saying anyways?!), it was incredibly amusing. Even my sweet 6 year old could partake, showing off his reading skills. I was probably the most amused by my husband and his charade-skills though! Lastly, I thought that I would spice up their Valentine cards this year by writing out some personal ones. Ones that I hope they keep forever, maybe even frame one day. The KG fonts were on point. The sentiments made me weep. Just sayin'. But, hey. That's just me. 

Don't wait for someone to love you, love others and love them proudly! So, tell me. Did you love loudly this year?

xo,
Janice

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Manhattan Beach Meet-up

SoCal Educators In the House!!!

When your sweet friend from Teach Inspire Change/EB Camps says, "I want to throw a meet-up!" you just pull open your calendar and pray that you can catch up to her <#caitlindoesnotplay>. So, Caitlin, Aris (Sailing Into Second)Holly (Research and Play), and I went forward with plans to gather amongst 30+ fabulous bloggers/TPT authors in the SoCal area. With the intention of giving everyone the comfort of easily mingling in with others, while soaking in some of the trendy-chic aspects that SoCal has to offer, the Shade Hotel was the perfect venue to meet with some likeminded friends!


It's not a party until you have some fabulous swag and prizes for your guests. I mean, really! Teachers love all things pretty, organized, and well, free. #duh From water bottles, THM memberships, compliment cards, neon-colored paper, to a die-cutting machine?! Say wha?! We had some of the most fabulous donors... 





Most humbling moment... meeting Sam and Jillian from Teachers Pay Teachers the night before the meet-up. Y'all! <I so badly want to be Southern!> These beauties flew all the way out from TPT headquarters to meet some of their TPT authors here in SoCal! Not only were they excited to just meet some of our SoCal gems, they couldn't have been more genuine in their presence and conversations. Meeting these gals had me yearning for a trip out to New York to meet the rest of their TPT family. So honored that they shared their precious time with us!


We hugged, mingled, collaborated, took pics, made new friends, and simply electrified our passion for education, entrepreneurship, and kindness. This was my biggest takeaway from our successful meet-up... No matter what it is you're doing in life, if you do it WITH others, you can do anything. I'm not only proud to be surrounded by some hearts made of gold... I am so very proud to call myself a teacher!

Be sure to lurk around Instagram and follow all of these beautiful faces down below:

 




CALL TO ACTION: Go love on your people! 

Blessed,
Janice



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

Oh, my sweet heavens!!!! This recipe kicked some serious cookie be-hind! If you love a little tangy with your sweet, you must stop everything and do as I write. No, seriously. Go on now...



Strawberry Lemonade Cakebox Cookies

  • 1 Strawberry Cakebox Mix
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 lemon (use for zesting and squeezed juice)
  • 1 small package of powder lemonade
  • 1 cup of powder sugar
    -Mix together oil, eggs, and lemon juice.
    -In a separate bowl, mix together the powder lemonade, cake mix, and lemon zest.
    -Mix throughly both the liquid and dry mixtures together.
    -Refrigerate for about an hour.

   *Preheat oven at 350 degrees 
    
    -Roll a teaspoon of dough into a cup of powdered sugar.
    -Place onto pan.
    -Bake for 8-10 minutes.

 

 
 Voila!

xo,
Janice


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Just Me


The life of a wife, mom, teacher, teacherpreneur(ish), friend, and social media enthusiast... where does one begin?! Let's do a quick run-down! I've been living in southern Cali all of my life <and it's longer than you think>. My very supportive and super-busy husband and I are raising some pretty fabulous children. Our 17 (boy) and 15 (girl) year old are your typical teenagers, without the back-talking, slamming of doors, and party on the weekends. Ok, so they may not be that "typical" but they certainly know how to leave a messy room, be told a thousand times to do their chores, obsess over social media, blast their music, and hang out at the mall. See, told you! And then, I have my very atypical 6 (boy) year old <yes, 6!>. Although my husband refuses to believe that he is not your average 6 year old, personal conversations with him and his outwardness the minute he walks into a room proves to everyone else that encounters his presence that he is "something else!" These 3, very different 3, are my motivation to continue to drive and push through life, however, it's not so easy <nor pretty> while teaching full-time, seeking out the Teacherpreneur World, chasing dreams, treasuring beautiful friendships, and keeping happily married. Just saying.







Follow my journey and soon hear of how I actually got here. Again, not-so pretty. #itsfine

xoxo,
Janice


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Making Connections


It was really just this year that I learned the value of making those connections with others… outside of my comfortable, imperfect, little bubble! Social media, mainly Instagram
, has brought some very special people into my life <see below for pics of those gorgeous faces>. And when I think back, I never (No, really. NEVER.) dreamed of sharing my life with others who I barely knew (ok, don’t know at all) nor become so intrigued by the lives OF others. It was your typical mentality of #aintnobodygottimeforthat. Let’s face it, we’re all busy. I get it. I have a full-time career, a husband, 3 kids, family, and friends that I have loved for over 20+ years.However, I couldn’t feel more grateful for falling into that Social Media hole and opening my heart and social media doors to everyone (Well, almost everyone. #saynotocreepers). My life has forever changed… in and out of the classroom.

Lurking around Instagram, I found that there are thousands of talented educators who were sharing their “amazingness” with little ol’ me! I mean, people were giving away freebies for goodness sakes! What-the-what?! As an educator, how do you not take advantage of gaining more knowledge, extra time to now do something else because someone has handed you a product that would’ve taken you hours to create?! Hello? Did you hear me?! Time is priceless and people are handing it to me on a silver platter (with maybe some polka-dots, chevron, and cute font)! I mean… #icanteven. <sideline: I love hashtags. Get used to it.> Responding, appreciating, “liking”, and simply making those connections on social media has made me a better educator for each and every one of my students. Because no matter what anyone says… it IS all about them. Arming them with all of the resources, knowledge, and heart to live a happy and good life is our ultimate goal! Despite what is going on in your personal life and relationships with other colleagues, the sight of this goal should never be lost. So, it became clear that I needed to “make the time for that.” The vibe and passion in my classroom now is ever-so-present and palpable. Thank you, social media.

Then came TPTFacebookTwitterPeriscopeGoogle HangoutsVoxer, and BLAB. Most of us screamed, “Noooo, not one more! No more! I can’t!” And then it became, “Oh. Wait, what?! Real-time? I can see, talk to you?! Ummm,wait... you have an accent?! You’re going through the same crap hardships as me?” Before I knew it, people from all over the world were joining together to share ideas about building their edu-empire, classroom management, technology in the classrooms, troubled students, stress management, keeping healthy, stretching out your dollar <because we is teachers and we is broke>, and your product sucks, but let me tell you why… the list is endless. You will always find at least one topic that you can connect with another person on. Always. Teacher communities are popping up all over the place! Besties are being made! Voices are being heard! Educators are being supported! Students are thriving! Happy Classrooms! Happy teachers! We are teachers, hear us ROAR!!!! Ahhh. Who the heck cannot find the value in making connections?!

Well, if I haven’t convinced you of the importance and value of making those connections with the outside world yet, I’m stunned, listen up, because the best part is coming… Making connections with others will surprisingly bring people into your life that you could never imagine living without. I’m pretty keen on what is going on around me and what will happen next (because I like to think that I know just about everything. What?! I do! Ask my husband.) However, I NEVER suspected that I would meet people from online, all over the world, and pray each night that God keeps them forever safe and healthy, for fear that my heart couldn’t endure such heartbreak. 

Some I have never met in person….

Some that don’t know that I’m their best friend YET… 

 


And some that I’ve had the privilege of going out to dinner with, and texting on a daily basis with...

 

Yup. I’ve. Fallen. Hard. Having groups of people, communities, constantly telling me, “You can do it! Don’t listen to them! Try this! I love you!” is mind-blowing.

Putting yourself out there, making meaningful relationships with others, will bring you the greatest of surprises that you never thought imaginable. Your life may seem as if it is crumbling down all around you, but “those people” that you once “replied to”, “followed”, or simply “liked” have a knack for glimmering that sliver of light into your path that you were too blind to see on your own. The funny part, they have no idea of how they’ve blessed your life. No clue. I find that amusing. And it’s always the most clueless that make the biggest of impacts. Juggling that humbleness and greatness is no easy feat, people! They make their way into your heart in the most heart-skipping-beat kind of way. You. Will. Be. Amazed.

This post most certainly wouldn't have been possible if Global Glitter Tribe hadn't reached out to me and "make that connection." #forevergrateful

Who has made their way into your heart from that simple online connection? Tell me! I love a #juicystory!

~Janice