Teachers love their coffee. Moms live for their coffee. Oh to drink a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee. Unless it’s a long weekend, or maybe a snow day, a hot cup of coffee is rarely what teachers or moms get to drink. This is the number one reason why every teacher should have a coffee bar in their classroom.
But enjoying a nice hot mug of java is not the only reason to supply your classroom with a coffee bar. There are other benefits as well. Consider how coffee brings people together. How often do you hear someone say, “Let’s make plans to have coffee.” or “Meet me for coffee?” Even if both parties don’t actually drink coffee we all refer to sitting down with someone for a conversation as “having coffee.” This opportunity to be intentionally relational can be a focal point for your classroom.
The wafting aroma of flavorful coffee coming from your classroom each morning provides a welcome invitation. Or maybe in the afternoon when all the students have gone to their Encore and teachers are needing a chance to take a breath. Your classroom coffee bar could be a place of refuge for colleagues needing to take a moment and relax. You might be the one needing to take a moment and relax. What better way than with a hot cup of coffee?
Grading papers is not usually a fun task, but a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee can give you the pep you need to power through. There is something about a hot beverage that warms the body and relaxes the muscles to make us feel ready to tackle a daunting task. As a language arts teacher, I much prefer reading a stack of essays while sipping on a good cup of coffee.
Whether needing a moment alone or willing to welcome others, a coffee bar for your classroom is a great idea. Want a way to let others know they are welcome to join you try one of my printables. Drop your email below and I’ll send you the password to my free resource library where you can find four different coffee-related posters that you can download and use to decorate above your coffee bar.
Build Student Relationships
Another great use for a classroom coffee bar is to attract students. This was the motivation for starting my Black Coffee Fridays. For the thirty minutes before students needed to be in homeroom classrooms, I invited any student or staff member to come and talk about books. During our conversations, I offered a hot beverage and sometimes even a doughnut. I loaded up on the fancy cappuccino K-cups and hot chocolate for the kids. The last thing most middle schoolers need is caffeine!
Inviting students to come chat gave me an open door to establishing a solid relationship. We mostly talked about books, but the conversations would often also veer to a more personal nature for the students. Our conversations established trust and they felt comfortable in my classroom. Most of the kids who showed up regularly were friends with each other and there were times that they would be fighting with each other. Those moments gave me an opportunity to teach conflict resolution. So many teachable moments on lessons that don’t need to take place in a scheduled class.
Are you a club advisor without a budget? Have a charity you’d like your class or school to support? Using a coffee bar can be one way to generate small funds. My husband, a computer science high school teacher, needed a way to generate a small budget for their robotics team. Starting a coffee bar he calls The Wired Cafe in his classroom has helped his team make the extra funds for robot building.
His cafe has grown so popular that they started selling donuts on Wednesdays as well. The robotic students run the register so it’s not one more thing he has to do each morning. It’s grown into a major operation. He started with a few Kuerig machines and a hot water pot.
The basic set up allows students to come in and make their own drink. He provides creamers and other accessories like marshmallows and whipped cream. (There is a small fridge in the room as well.) Each item has a cost so he created a page with barcodes to make it quick and easy. The barcodes are also tracked in a spreadsheet. (This is why he teaches computer science!) He’s able to print the spreadsheet and give a copy to the treasurer making sure it’s all legit.
Building Your Coffee Bar
Hearing about my husband enjoying delicious hot coffee each morning made me want to have my own coffee bar. My first problem was where to put it. I had maxed out my countertop and the last thing I wanted was to add any clutter. My classroom did have a spot that would fit my no longer needed changing table! Repurposing my changing table was perfect for setting up a coffee bar and providing me with more storage.
My husband found a great deal on a used Kuerig that came with a few cups. I brought in a few flavored syrups, creamers, a variety of other K-cups, mugs and some to-go cups with lids. The bar continually grows and evolves with flavors and users.
One of those coffee flavors is made by the Ladies Coffee Company. Their coffee has a great flavor that you can enjoy hot or cold. There are a ton of great blends to try and with teacher appreciation around the corner, you might want to check out Teacher Fuel. You can even use my TeacherMomcoffee discount code to receive 10% off your total purchase.
Share in the comments all the coffee accessories you’d want on your classroom coffee bar.
Google has revolutionized the way I teach and I have never looked back. With technology like Google, you are able to save time and transform your teaching practices. But why get Google certified? To learn and teach. Being Google certified will help you have the skills to effectively use Google for Education in the classroom. Maybe you already know the basics, but taking the time to gain certification will certainly teach you a few tricks that you hadn’t discovered.
Being Google certified will also allow you to help colleagues more effectively use G Suites for Education. Most people resist change, but if you can show them how much Google simplifies the communication and collaboration process they might be willing to try something new.
If you’re like me and love all things Google becoming certified is the next step. And if you’re like me and follow along with the Google Teacher Tribe podcast you already know that Kasey Bell has Google Certification courses available. Participating in a course guarantees that you will gain the skills needed to pass the exam and give you a chance to practice.
If you’re new to this idea let me breakdown each of the certifications and what you can gain from joining a course then taking the exams.
Level 1 Certification: For the teacher who wants to successfully integrate G Suites for Education into their teaching practices. This level covers the basics of each Google tool that can be used in the classroom.
Level 2 Certification: For the teacher who feels comfortable using G Suites in their classroom but would like to take it to a more advanced level. A deeper dive into each of the tools.
Google Certified Trainer: For the teacher who enjoys teaching other teachers. This certification is open to any educator who would like to share what they have learned at the first two levels with other educators.
Google Certified Innovator: For the teacher who is developing their own innovative ways to use Google in the classroom.
Why become certified?
There is more to Google certification than the badge that can be added in your email signature and social media accounts. Certification is about your own education as an educator. If anyone understands the concept of life-long learning it’s teachers. One of the reasons we continue to teach is because we enjoy being learners ourselves. In the 21st century, technology has transformed the way we present information to students and how they demonstrate their learning to us. Google is not exclusive to the classroom. Many companies use G Suites for business purposes as well. Allowing students to gain these skills before entering the workplace gives them an advantage.
Many teachers are already using G Suites in their classrooms without becoming officially certified. So why spend the time and money to work towards certification?
1. Proficiency: Have you ever thought while planning your unit, there has to be a way for me to do this more efficiently? I know I have! Then you find yourself spending countless hours looking for the right answer. Taking the certification courses and becoming certified means you will have that answer right away. In fact, it will most likely give you new and improved ideas for delivering your content.
2. Effectiveness: Turning a handout into a Google Doc is not what G Suites is all about. The technology is not meant to replace, it’s meant to enhance. What you will learn through the course of gaining certification will help you to better know the possibilities of each tool and how to effectively use them in the classroom.
3. Networking: Join a large community of other certified educators who can provide you with support and help when you need it. Connecting with other educators is the best way to grow your creativity as a teacher.
Now that you’ve decided to go ahead with the process of becoming Google certified there are a few things that you may want to consider. First, consider taking one of Kasey’s courses to help you prepare for the exam. Sure, it’s possible to gather the knowledge you need from the Google training materials available. However, it will take a lot of reading and searching for answers all on your own without any help.
Taking Kasy’s course will give you exactly what you need to practice for the exam. She provides videos and documents, plus you can always ask her or the Facebook group specific questions if you’re having trouble.
Choosing a course such as these allows you to work at your own pace and on your own time schedule. Joining a scheduled Boot Camp that might be offered by your district will also give you the information you need to pass each exam. However, there is a lot to know and possibly learn. These face-to-face courses are only offered on a specific day and time so they may move too quickly for some people.
Before you make a decision about how to gain your certification take a look at Kasey’s post with frequently asked questions for more information. You will also find several resources she provides and details about each of the Google Certification courses she offers twice a year — May and November.
When you have successfully passed your exam and gained your certification be sure to brag in the comments.
When I started blogging there was a whole new world of teachers sharing their knowledge and helping each other learn on social media. Jump over to my post about why teachers need to embrace social media if you don’t know what I’m talking about. I was amazed by the teaching ideas and lesson sharing that was happening on Instagram. Then I discovered Facebook groups for teachers. I was living in the dark about how these social networks brought me top-notch professional development on a daily basis. The more I read Twitter and discovered teachers to follow, the more I realized I was starting to build my Professional Learning Network.
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Why PLNs are a good thing
For several years now my principal has been trying to build a Professional Learning Network among our own building staff. He started with a book study on Learning in the Fast Lane. Small groups of teachers were assigned a section of chapters to teach and share what they learned. We all had a great time sharing our creative lesson plans and talking about what we were learning and how it could help us better serve our students. Not every staff member participated, but those who did really felt it was a benefit for our classrooms.
Honestly, our staff hasn’t always been the greatest at collaboration or learning from each other. This idea has been a culture change that my principal continues to work towards. A culture change like this can be difficult when many teachers already feel overworked. Plus we were on improvement status by the state because of our test scores. Nothing makes you feel like a failure than a report card with a D. As much as I loathe this system, teacher evaluations, school report cards, and standardized testing, they are the reality. As it turns out they helped us start to make a culture change towards a local Professional Learning Network.
How to make a PLN in your building
Because I’ve been so inspired by all the other teacher bloggers and teachers sharing on social media, I partnered with our media specialist (who’s super creative) to come up with a few new ideas to help our staff. We started with a Summer PD Bingo board. This idea came from a principal blogger who teamed up with another principal blogger friend to help their staff escape summer slide. Our PD board used a lot of the same tasks, but we did try to add a few things we knew our staff might be excited to try.
Find a copy of the Summer PD Bingo board in our free resource library. Don’t have access to the library? Join the Teach.Mom.Repeat. newsletter and get instant access.
To sweeten the pot for choosing to participate I collected some teacher treats. Throughout the summer I connected with a few teacher authors and a number of local businesses to donate prizes for our Bingo winners. At our opening meeting in August teachers turned in their boards and we drew for prize packs.
Our next step was to find a way for teachers to share during the school year. Last year the board adjusted our contract hours so that we have a 25 minute flex time at the end of the school day. The purpose of this time is for collaboration and planning. Although it may only be 25 minutes it’s enough time to share ideas or get people started with the right resources.
Once a month we are planning a “Learn from the BEST” session. Teachers sign up on a Google Doc with the ideas they have for sharing and the concepts they would like to have someone teach them. Teachers will present in their own classrooms so any necessary materials will be readily available. I have also created a Google Site where we will be able to share any digital materials, session notes or even videos of the professional development. Making materials available to all staff even if they couldn’t attend on that day.
Hopefully this opportunity to teach each other will continue to cultivate a collaborating community amongst our staff. We have such excellent educators at our fingertips we should absolutely be learning from each other. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with the EdCamp professional development model. Learning from teachers who are also in the trenches every day with students can provide a much-needed solution to a current problem. That’s the best part of holding sessions based on resident experts; you can ask for specific solutions to a problem. There isn’t much in the world of teaching that hasn’t been seen before by another teacher. When we can help each other problem solve we can get back to doing our job. And possibly schedule a little more time to enjoy our family and friends.
Does your building have an established Professional Learning Network? What ideas can you add to help make our PLN plan better?
One the greatest aspects to establish in the classroom, right from the start, is a sense of community. Classroom community is important for students to feel they are in a safe place to share ideas and take some risks. When they feel the environment around them will support them even if they didn’t get the right answer they will still be willing to try. Their willingness to try will make for a much more productive class period each day.
Now, this all sounds great, but it can often be difficult to establish a community within a middle school classroom. For one thing, middle schoolers can be pretty opinionated. By the time they get to 8th grade they may have been burned by others and until you prove them wrong they are convinced you will be the same kind of teacher. Middle schoolers are also big fans of drama. They often carry a grudge like a new momma carries her newborn. They cuddle it and feed it and watch it grow.
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This can make creating a class community a difficult process. That is why it’s best to start as soon as possible.
Here is an idea that was sparked by a teacher I connected with through Instagram. If you have read the book or watched the movie Wonder then you know what I mean by Mr. Browne’s precepts. He was a teacher who started his class with a precept, a word I had to look up in the dictionary because I’d never heard it before reading Wonder. Precept is defined as a rule or direction dictating a way you should act or behave. To me using this word makes so much more sense than calling them inspirational quotes, or even using just inspirational quotes.
Hashtags are all the rage so I’m going to use #MotivationMonday to kick off each week. Even if we have a holiday Monday and start the week on Tuesday. When students come in and get settled we will start with our posted precept. Read the precept out loud together then discuss what it means. This is a quick, 5-minute conversation.
As the week moves along notice when kids are living out the week’s precept. Tell them how they are demonstrating it and call them out to their classmates for doing so. This will allow everyone to see what the precept in action looks like. By Thursday all students will need to cast their vote for the classmate who they felt lived out the precept. This will be done through a simple Google Form that students can find on our class blog. The form asks simple questions: voting student’s name, nominee’s name, why they deserve to be recognized. At the end of the day Thursday I will go through the votes and the student with the most votes will be awarded a small laminated version of the precept poster. They will also receive a printed list of the reasons why they were deserving of this precept. All voters names will be kept anonymous. It will be up to students if they would like to share that they voted for that student and why.
In class on Friday, we will spend a few minutes celebrating that student for their outstanding accomplishment. It is my hope that this will encourage positive behavior. Our class motto is a positive presence & a positive participant. Using the weekly precepts will help support and uphold this message.
When you teach in a class that has multiple levels of learners, meaning you’ll need to pull them into small groups for many of the lessons, it’s a good idea to start building a community that also recognizes differences. As a teacher who has an intervention specialist for every class it’s no secret to the kids that there is a second teacher in the room for a reason. The kids who are on IEPs know they need extra support and the minute you ask them to join a group away from the big group they often feel stupid. The stigma is real and if we don’t treat it in a way that can make these kids feel comfortable they will continue to see themselves as a label.
Caterpillars and Butterflies
Over the summer I kept hearing about or reading about how caterpillars change into butterflies. This made me think about the obvious theme of metamorphosis. Starting out as something small with little skills and turning into something more beautiful and grand. But then I started to think about the life of a caterpillar and the life of a butterfly separately.
As a caterpillar, they crawl on their bellies and eat leaves. In that state, those things are good for them. As butterflies, they now get around with wings, totally new skills because of a totally new body. They now eat nectar. Again, a totally new food source which is perfect for nourishing their totally new bodies. (Sorry, I’m not a science teacher so this is really basic here, but I promise a good point is about to be made.) As caterpillars, they needed to eat a certain kind of food to fuel the body they had at the time. It’s what was best for them. Imagine if a caterpillar tried to eat nectar rather than the leaves it’s body truly needed. They probably wouldn’t grow and they would most likely be super hungry all the time. It’s the same for us.
If we try to “feed” ourselves something that we aren’t ready for or can’t grasp the concept of right now then we are going to get frustrated and shut down. It’s important for us to know what we need in order to grow. Or it’s important for students to understand how they learn best in order to actually retain knowledge.
Like caterpillars, we can often evolve over time. If we build up our knowledge enough to transform our weaknesses into strengths we become something new, a butterfly. Now we have to figure out how this new self learns and grows. That can often mean trying something we have never tried before because we are something (or at least our mindset might be something) we have never been before.
This little breakdown of the metamorphosis theme is meant to help students think about how they should be aware of their personal learning style AND understand that it can change. It’s possible to train yourself to be a better learner in a style you may not have been successful with previously.
Why this matters
For example, I’m the worst singer! I listen to the radio in the car, but I’m not really a music kind of person. However, when I had my children I discovered that singing to them soothed them to sleep. I’m still baffled by this! Plus, I’m so bad with music that I really only know two songs. The ABC’s (yes I’m a total ELA nerd) and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Do you know that my two-year-old has been singing ALL of the correct words to Twinkle Twinkle since she could speak sentences? I discovered that she learns things when they are in a musical lyric. So I started making up songs to teach her things. I’m not about to go live with these songs, but she is learning and so am I.
The first week of school my read aloud will be Hermie by Max Lucado. It tells the story of a caterpillar who desperately wants to be special like so many other bugs. Then when he becomes a butterfly he recognizes that he hadn’t become his true self. I’ll ask the kids what they think is Hermie’s greatest lesson learned. Their answers should reflect ideas about being ok with who you are or where you are at presently. That we don’t need to desire or try to be something we are not. Especially because we all have the potential to become someone greater than we are today, at this moment.
Next, we will all draw ourselves as the butterflies we see for our future selves. Students who feel comfortable drawing from scratch will get a blank white paper and those who need an outline to get started can have a copy. They will color and cut out their butterflies and we will hang them in the classroom.
My next major point to students will be noticing how different each butterfly was drawn. I’ll make an observation that the process inside a chrysalis is probably not the same for a bright blue wing as it would be for a marbled yellow and black wing. That means that in order to be formed into a butterfly each one might need something different to achieve the end result. The same idea applies to our classroom, each student will need a specific path of lessons to achieve mastery of a skill.
Now we have established the idea that we all have the potential to be something different than we are right now and in order to get there, it can look different than the person sitting next to us. Ultimately creating a safe space where different is good.
Now is the time to ask students what goals they need to set in order to become that butterfly they envision. What new skills does this butterfly have that the caterpillar didn’t have or wasn’t very good at? What goals would help that butterfly gain these skills?
Keep in mind this whole class activity is a metaphor!
I would love to hear from any of the teachers who give this approach to classroom community a try. Share in the comments how or if you plan to give this a go.
This morning I had an Aha moment that soon reached #mindblown status. Here’s how this happened: Instagram has become a game changer for my teaching career. Now nothing I’m about to share is going to be new information to anyone; well maybe it depends on how in the dark you are, I was in the dusk. However, just like many of us teach our students, it’s not what you know it’s about how you use that knowledge. For example, I know I shouldn’t eat so much sugar, but does that stop me from pouring flavored creamer into my coffee every morning: NO. So you get what I mean, keep following me.
In the middle of the night it occurred to me, (my one-year-old daughter isn’t sleeping through the night, but that’s another mom post) there is a reason my new found use of Instagram hit #mindblown status whereas many of you will be like, yeah duh! Our building has not had a new teacher straight out of college in over a decade.
Why does this matter? Take a moment to flashback into my classroom during what I thought was an engaging lesson. I presented a writing lesson on character development that asked students to create a Facebook profile for their character. I thought I was being “trendy” and the kids would love bringing social media into the classroom. Do you know what they all told me? “Facebook is for old people. I don’t even have Facebook.” In fact, Facebook is old enough that as I’m writing this post it doesn’t tell me to check it’s spelling, but it does for Instagram.
What does this teach us? Besides the fact that I can now place myself in that veteran teacher category, it means I’m not as “trendy” with my teaching lessons as I thought. All of the people who teach alongside me are just as veteran as I am now. We haven’t had a new teacher, out of college new, join us to share what the kids are doing these days.
Let me bring you into the light
We all know about Pinterest, which is a search engine and that makes a difference. Many of us probably have a love/hate relationship with this site because let’s be honest, it can make you feel inadequate if you’re not seeing those amazing photos for the inspiration they are meant to be. Now because it’s a search engine you may, as I did, have missed something important because you weren’t searching for the right term.
To make a long story short, to “close our gaps” the staff in my building is being told to use learning progressions when creating formative assessments in order to collect the right data to inform our instruction. That probably makes sense to a lot of you, except the learning progressions part because I learned yesterday that’s not the right term. Or at least no one else on the Internet is calling it that. It was evident when I’d been searching Google and no one else seemed to be using this idea. Which was so bizarre to me because nothing ever feels new in the world of education. Then it occurred to me maybe we were on the cutting edge. Nope. We needed to be turned in a different direction. We needed to be looking at Marzano’s learning scale. So here I was trying to create the wheel that had already been invented. In the teaching world, this is usually the case. Your teaching solution is out there you just have to search for it! But you can’t find it if you’re searching for the wrong thing.
Pick a hashtag, I suggest #teachersfollowteachers, to start with and now you will see what it is you need to be searching for. Rather than looking for the information, the information will now start to fall in your lap. See what other teachers are doing, find the ones who are also blogging about it (#teacherswhoblog, #teacherblogger) and then join their email list for updates so you don’t miss anything good. Join mine and you’ll be given access to a growing library of FREEBIES!
There is a whole network of teachers inspiring, supporting and encouraging one another on social media that you may not know exists. I’ll admit as part of that new micro-generation, according to a recent Facebook article, social media is not something I thought could really benefit me in any way. I thought it was about sharing pictures, when really it’s about sharing ideas, and aren’t ideas so much more powerful than pictures?
Join this new (to me) #teachertribe! A fellow blogging middle school teacher, @t_isforteaching tagged me in her Instagram follow suggestions and I have to admit it felt like being invited to the “cool” kids’ lunch table. Education is evolving, we can evolve with it or we can choose to get left in its dust. What are you choosing to do? How does social media help you be a better teacher?
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I’m Carly, a former middle school now high school teacher and mom of 2 rambunctious kiddos.
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