Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Best Nine and Give Away Winners

Hi Friends.
I hope you are enjoying your Christmas break.  I am.  I've been able to stay in yoga pants and no makeup for the past couple of days, which is about as relaxed as it gets around here. 
I've also had a chance to catch up on a little blog reading and enjoy checking out holiday Instagram posts.  One fun hashtag I really liked looking at is #2015bestnine.  
You can go to a site and enter your Instagram user name and it will generate set of the most liked pictures of 2015 from your account.  (To do it yourself, just google #2015bestnine.)

Here's a run down of my top nine Instagram pics from 2015.

1.  Prepping my 100th Day of School door banner.  My firsties loved going through the steamers.
2.  I always take pictures of my students on the first day of school.  I started having them hold a chalkboard a couple of years ago.  They always turn out so cute.
3.  Here's a peek at my class set up.  I haven't made any changes in the past couple of years.  (Maybe this summer will be time for a little makeover.)
4.  From time to time I like to share outfits and accessories.  Here is my favorite summer Tory Burch cross body.  I love the colorful polka dots.
5.  I celebrated a milestone birthday this year.  D and A did a great job picking out a special gift for me.
6.  A had a talent day in her class.  She demonstrated ballet.  Her teacher snapped this awesome picture of her doing a grand jete.  Love it!
7.  We wrapped up color week with a color themed STEM activity.
8.  During Read Across America, we made these cute birthday cats to display in the hall.  Click here if you would like a free copy of this activity.
9.  On April Fool's Day I pranked my class with a fake spelling test.  Number 1 was the word Happy.  Number 2 was the word April.  Number 3 was the word Fools.  (At this point the kids were on to me.) And Number 4 was the word Day.  My kids went crazy. ;)

There you have #2015bestnine.  Click here if you would like to follow me on Instagram.  Since it's such a quick way to share, I update it pretty frequently with school stuff, personal pics, outfit ideas, products, and basically things that make me happy.

Speaking of happy.  I got to make three ladies very happy this morning by letting them know that they each won a $25 Amazon gift card during School Is a Happy Place's 3rd Blogiversary Give Away. 
Congratulations to Christin of Shifting Teacher K-2, Wendy of First Grade Fireworks, and Anne of Elementary AMC.  I'm sure they will put their prizes to good use.
Be sure to visit these ladies.  They all have lots of great ideas to share.

Shifting Teacher K-2
Elementary AMC

Thanks to all of you that entered.

Monday, December 21, 2015

What I've Learned About Blogging and A Blogiversary Give Away

In a few days School Is a Happy Place will turn three.  Over the past few years some teachers have inquired about ways to get started with blogging and Teachers Pay Teachers.  While I do not consider myself an expert, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some things I've discovered through blogging.

One tip I have for teacher bloggers is to get your family's (or significant other's) support.  If you are working full time at a school, blogging will happen during your "free time."  Your family will need to understand your goal and be patient.  You'll have to figure out how you're going to balance your time blogging with your quality time with loved ones.

I discovered teaching blogs about 4 or 5 years ago.  Before that, I didn't even know that they existed.  I was implementing The Daily 5 in my class for the first time.  I spent lots of time combing the Internet, trying to find how it looked in real classrooms.  I found a few Daily 5 blog resources, but more importantly, I found the world of teaching blogs.
I became so inspired by all the sharing by these bloggers, it became my goal to start my own blog.  My biggest hang-up was coming up with a name for my blog.  I spent months thinking of possible names.  I kept an ongoing list of name possibilities.  In late October of 2012, I decided on School Is a Happy Place.  Finally, I was able to get started.
While unintentional, I'm glad I ended up with a blog name that is not grade level specific.  Who knows, I might be in another grade next year.  School Is a Happy Place should work whatever grade I am in.

Once I came up with a name, I went in search of a blog designer.  I found my original designer on etsy.  Theresa Bluhm of Always In Bluhm worked with me on creating a custom blog.  Bless her heart.  She would ask me design questions and I would have no idea what she was talking about.  Somehow she managed to create a blog that I really liked and was proud of.
Fast forward a couple of years and I was ready for a little makeover.  This time Megan Favre of A Bird in the Hand Designs designed my blog.  She was great to work with and I love the updates she made.
If you are thinking of starting a blog, hiring someone to design your blog is a great way to get the look you want.  There are also free blog templates available online, if you want to go that route.

Before I started blogging I was a first grade teacher, a wife, a mommy to a five year old, a volunteer on a couple of different boards, a volunteer at my church, and a group fitness instructor.  Once I committed to the blog, some of those things had to go.
I cut down my board work to only serving on one.  I also gave up teaching group fitness.  I had been teaching various group fitness classes for 19 years.  I really didn't want to stop, but there is only so much time in a day.  I still workout regularly.  But, I needed more flexibility than being an instructor offered.
I still have my sweet family, I still help out at my church, do some volunteer work, and teach full time.  I'm on the go a lot and I get super behind on laundry.  But, to realize my goal of having a teaching blog, I had to give some things up.

I guess "You Can't Do It All" and "Say Goodbye to Free Time" kind of go together hand in hand.  My truth is, since I started blogging and creating for Teachers Pay Teachers, I have very little free time.  I really feeling like it is a second job.
I usually bring my computer with me wherever I go.  If I get a moment, I'm often working on something blog or tpt related.
I know that sounds like a bit of a bummer.  I'm only speaking for myself.  Other bloggers my have a different perspective.  But for me, becoming a teacher blogger really cut into my already limited free time.

I really think my teaching skills have improved since I started blogging.  I'm constantly thinking of ways to improve classroom activities.  Of course, before I started blogging I always worked to make my classroom a better place.  But, there's something about sharing your classroom and ideas with other teachers that takes things to the next level.

I'm speaking now as a blog reader and not a blog author.  Be careful with your content.  For me, reading post after post about an author's Teachers Pay Teachers products, is not how I want to spend my time.
Yes, some product placement is fine and maybe even welcome.  But, space it out a bit.  Your blog should not be one continuous commercial.
Along with posts about great classroom ideas, I also like reading some personal stories and seeing some pictures.  It makes me feel a little connection to the author.
And speaking of pictures, teaching blogs should include lots of pictures.  Pictures make the post have much more impact.

An important piece of the content pie is freebies.  Being able to share useful activities (for free) is one of my favorite things about teaching blogs.  It is really awesome to share something that your students enjoyed with teachers all over the world.
I do most of my freebie sharing on School is a Happy Place through google docs.  (You can find tutorials online.)  I also share some free items at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
If you start blogging, be ready to share with others.

Yes, you have your team at your school and they are great.  But, blogging allows you to connect with with other teachers and educators outside of your building and see what is trending out in the education world.
Blogland is really a community.  Through comments, emails, and other social media sites you have a chance to form relationships with other teachers who share the same passion you have for creating a positive, loving, and effective classroom.

"Comparison is the the of joy." -Theodore Roosevelt
I just love that quote.  It's applicable to so many aspects of life.   
It's especially applicable to the world of followers and top 100 Teacher Pay Teacher rankings and all those other ways someone may not feel as though he/she is measuring up.
Do not compare yourself to other teacher bloggers.  On a regular basis I tell my eight year old daughter that how someone else is doing has nothing to do with you.  Your buddy is reading on a 6th grade reading level in 2nd grade?  Good for him.  But, that has nothing to do with you.  You do your best and that's all you should worry about.
If you join the world of blogging, do not compare yourself to others.  You will just get frustrated.  You have an important and unique perspective to share.  What others are doing has nothing to do with you. 

There you have it, some of my thoughts after three years of blogging.   Like teaching, blogging can be very rewarding and some times challenging.   If you are a teaching nerd like me, overall, it's a great thing to be a part of.

Like I mentioned earlier, this month marks School Is a Happy Place's third blogiversary.  To celebrate, I'm giving away three $25 amazon gift cards. 
To enter...follow School Is a Happy Place here on this site, on Bloglovin, and on Instagram.   By doing this, you can receive up to three entry chances.  (If you are already a follower, you can enter as well.  Just be ready to share your user name for verification purposes.)
Read below for more details.  Also, if you have have any questions, feel free to email me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck and Merry Christmas from my little family to yours.