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Chad Boender is a teacher blogger and author of Male Kindergarten Teacher, a blog focused on curriculum-based projects and children's crafts. He also shares content to bring you helpful hints on important things (ie: classroom organization, teacher hacks, strategic planning, etc.). Chad is a member of a very elite group of male kindergarten teachers. Yes, that's right, he teaches kindergarten. He graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Professional Education and is currently pursuing a degree in Educational Leadership, M.Ed. When he's not spending countless hours in his classroom, Chad enjoys spending time with friends and family, spending time at the lake house, and doing all things related to crafting and videography. Chad enjoys using his imagination to create a learning environment that is engaging, interactive, and inspiring for his kindergarten students.

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Kindergarten Teacher
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M.A.Ed.
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Chad Boender

5 End-of-Year Mistakes Teachers Make in the Classroom

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5 End-of-Year Mistakes Teachers Make in the Classroom

Avoid regrets later by taking these steps to end the school year on a high note.  

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Whether you just accepted your first teaching job or you're a veteran teacher, it's inevitable that all teachers will make a few mistakes in the classroom every now and then. It's completely normal to forget your lunch at home, to mix up your students' names, or to show up to school wearing two different shoes. But when it comes to the end of the school year, there are plenty of mistakes I wish I hadn't made.

Here are five end-of-the-year mistakes teachers make in the classroom, and how to avoid them.

1. Waiting to Organize or Clean Up the Classroom

Many difficulties arise at the end of the school year when you start to prep your classroom for the summer. But don't wait to start cleaning, organizing, or taking inventory of your classroom supplies until the very last week or day.

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Instead, get your students involved in the process during the months leading up to the end of the year. Assign jobs for individual students or small groups to complete. This might include organizing books, cleaning cupboards, testing dry erase markers, or sorting supplies. This process will make your job so much easier when it's time to pack up your classroom for the summer and get ready for the next school year.

2. Trying to Make Up for Lost Time

With all the curriculum requirements, state testing, and district mandates, it can be overwhelming at the end of the school year to realize you haven't completed all of the required material with your students. It can often be difficult to let it go when questions are racing through your mind: Will my students be ready for the next grade level? Did I miss teaching them an essential standard? What did I do wrong, and where did the time go?

Further reading: 6 Tips for Skillfully Managing Extreme Student Behaviors

These are all valid concerns. But it's important to remember that you know the needs of your students and you know what's essential for them to learn before moving onto the next grade. Rather than trying to make up for lost time, focus on the growth of your students and the relationships you established with each of them—because that's what truly matters.

3. Waiting Too Long to Celebrate Learning

Good news: learning doesn't have to be boring! So don't feel like you have to wait until the end of the year to have fun with your students or celebrate their accomplishments. As a first-year teacher, I was so focused on establishing my routines and procedures, learning the curriculum, and meeting the needs of my students that I often felt overwhelmed. This negatively impacted my teaching, and ultimately, my students.

Instead, cultivate relationships with your students throughout the year by celebrating even the smallest accomplishments. You'll be surprised at how much growth you'll see in your students when you build relationships, establish trust, and foster a love of learning.

4. Letting the Paperwork Pile Up

If you're anything like me, it's often easier to place paperwork, handouts, or master copies in piles on your desk rather than organizing and putting materials away. This might seem like an easy solution now, but it can often lead to an overwhelming end of the year when you have to pack everything up for the summer.

Don't make this mistake. Instead, make a goal after school each day to organize or store materials from one pile. Before you know it, you'll be organized and ready to go by the end of the school year.

5. Forgetting to Reflect Throughout the Year to Improve Teaching

Waiting until the end of the year to reflect on and analyze your lessons is an easy mistake to make. When I was a first-year teacher, I often found myself scrambling to remember what I wanted to change at the end of the unit or what didn't go well. Instead of trying to recall all of your mental notes about each lesson plan, it's important to continually reflect on your teaching.

Further reading: 5 Tips Guaranteed to Make You a Happy Teacher

Consider a few questions after each lesson: What went well? What should I have done differently? Should I teach unit seven before unit six? Each time, jot down a few notes about the results of your lessons. This will help you plan accordingly and make the necessary adjustments when you return to the unit the following year.

The best advice I can give a first-year teacher is to avoid these simple mistakes teachers make in the classroom. Although I've learned from these mistakes, I still occasionally show up to school with two mismatched shoes. Don't worry, it's normal!

5 Time Management Tips from a Kindergarten Teacher

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Time Management Tips for Kindergarten Teachers

Use these simple tips now and increase the time you have to manage your kindergarten class. 

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As a kindergarten teacher, it can sometimes seem impossible to juggle the day-to-day responsibilities and still have time to even use the restroom. Let's face it; there should be a handbook with time management tips for us! After all, the most valuable resource a teacher has is time: it's the basis to which we engage students in active learning while meeting the goals and objectives set in place by the state. Time also plays a vital role in managing the daily responsibilities in life. Finding that balance between work, family, and one's personal life is difficult.

I am by no means an expert on the topic of managing time effectively (just ask my parents). However, I hope that you can gain some insight from this post on some of the things that have worked for me. My goal is that you will leave here with at least one idea of what you can change in the coming year.

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We Spy: An Interactive Classroom Activity

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Create an interactive spy headquarters and transform how your students learn. 

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I love creating interactive classroom experiences, and I'm excited to share how I turned my classroom into an spy headquarters and gave my kindergartners a mystery to solve. And don't worry, I'll give you more than some clues about how to replicate it in your own classroom!

Getting Started

First, you need to come up with a plan: What mystery are your students going to solve and how are they going to solve it? In my classroom, I have a real popcorn machine. It's not for making popcorn; I use it to help my students learn their sight words (we call them "popcorn words"). I thought it would be a great idea to have my popcorn machine go missing. I talked with my principal, who said she'd love to be part of the mystery, so I planned to hide the machine in her office.

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The next step was to create an invitation to get my students excited for our spy mission, which would take place the day after I handed out the invites. I created personalized envelopes that contained a secret message. It was so secret that my students needed to put together a puzzle to reveal it: "Secret Agent, I need your help! You have been chosen to be a part of a top secret mission. Our popcorn machine has gone missing, and I need your help to find it! In order to solve our mystery, you will need to complete a number of tasks. If you accept this mission, please report to your classroom at 8:20 a.m. sharp. If possible, please wear black as a disguise. I hope to see you there! – Agent Boender"

Setting Up Your Classroom

Creating an interactive classroom takes a lot of planning, but the results are rewarding for both the students and the teacher. Students are actively engaged in their learning while mastering the learning objective(s) for each activity. In turn, this improves student achievement and growth. To recreate my spy headquarters, here's what you'll need:

After you have your supplies, follow these steps to set up your classroom:

  1. Create the appearance of lasers coming down from the ceiling to the floor with white yarn and black light fixtures. Cut large strands of white yarn, and tape them from the ceiling to objects around the classroom, such as tables, chairs, bookcases, etc. I recommend tying 6–8 strands in different locations around the room. Then cover all the windows and doors to prevent any light from coming into the classroom; I used black construction paper. Finally, turn on your black light fixtures to make the yarn glow.
  2. Since your students will be working in a dark environment, it's important to think about how they'll see what they're doing. I purchased some dollar store push lights to place at each table to help illuminate students' work. Another option is to purchase glow sticks or small flashlights.
  3. Decorate your environment with spy-themed decorations. This may include: spy-themed cardboard stand-ups, flashing lights, caution tape or "Investigation in Progress" tape, or even a spy-themed banner. Go all out if you want! I created a custom banner that I placed outside of my classroom, and as my students walked into school, I stood outside my classroom door in sunglasses, a secret agent badge, and a headset. In order to enter the classroom, students had to "sign in" by placing their finger on a fingerprint scanner app I downloaded onto my iPad.

Solving the Mystery

Now that your classroom is transformed, it's time to solve the mystery! I set up six stations for different activities. As the students completed each center activity, they received a puzzle piece, and each one brought them one step closer to finding out the culprit in the case of the missing popcorn machine.

At the end of all six activities, my students worked together in groups to solve the mystery. Their favorite part was taking a visit down to the principal's office to question the culprit! Why did our principal take our popcorn machine? Because she wanted to learn our popcorn words, of course! My students were rewarded with some great prizes as well: personalized trophies and bags of popcorn.

Creating a spy headquarters interactive classroom is just one way to get your students excited about learning. Whether you're transforming your classroom into something elaborate or you go with something simple, if you create an uncommon experience for your students, they'll develop a desire to learn, adapt to new experiences and situations, and think outside of the box.

5 Ways to Deal with Negative Teachers

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Don't let the negativity from other teachers impact you and spread into your classroom

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Dealing with negative teachers in the workplace can be difficult and frustrating. When things become toxic, it's far too easy to get sucked into the negativity. Dealing with teachers who are having an "off day" is one thing, but knowing the steps to avoid true "Negative Nancys" altogether can be difficult.

Here are five ways to deal with negative teachers.

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1. Address the Behavior with the Teacher

If you find yourself getting pulled into the negativity at school, remember that it's normal to have negative thoughts. However, the way you deal with or express these thoughts can greatly impact your mood.

If you find you have a colleague who's relentlessly negative, the best solution may be to address their negative behavior with them. In fact, consider speaking to them with a group of colleagues who share the same positive attitude as you. Let the teacher know how you feel about their negativity, and offer support and solutions to overcome their negative behavior.

Showing negative teachers that you respect their differences and offering insight into the situation may help alleviate the negativity within an organization.

2. Get Administration Involved

Teachers have the ability to greatly impact the culture of a school, and our attitudes can help or hurt student motivation, achievement, and well-being. If a teacher's negative behavior has progressed to negatively impacting the students, it's time to get administrators involved. They can step in and mediate, depending on the situation. This tactic is best used after you've already spoken to your colleague about their behavior and haven't seen any improvements.

3. Learn to Properly Express Your Own Feelings

Everyone experiences negative thoughts and emotions. But it can be far too easy to let bad vibes overstay their welcome when surrounded by a group of negative teachers. While it's important to build professional relationships with colleagues, keep in mind that there's absolutely a right way to blow off steam.

In addition to being unconstructive, airing your work-related grievances at school can make the problem worse if the source of your frustrations finds out what you've been saying. It's better to find appropriate outlets for your feelings than get caught in the trap of workplace negativity.

4. Remove Yourself from the Situation

One of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with negative teachers is removing yourself from the situation. In my experience, the teacher's lounge is one of the main areas where negativity can build and disrupt workplace dynamics. I've been in situations where I chose to eat in my classroom because the teacher's lounge was too toxic for my liking.

Although you might feel like you're isolating yourself by staying away from certain teachers, it's important to know what's best for you and your students. After all, students pick up on your behavior, and if you've been exposed to or engaged in negativity, it can affect their behavior and learning.

5. Don't Let Go of Your Own Positivity

Teaching isn't easy—it's very normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or upset. But how we handle our emotions can greatly impact our teaching, our relationships, and ultimately our students. It's a necessary skill to be able to shift any negative thoughts into positive ones. This may be easier said than done, but these three tactics are a start.

  • Surround yourself with positive people, both in and outside of school.
  • Find a creative outlet that helps you relieve stress and feel rejuvenated.
  • Maintain a positive mind-set by learning to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. Positive thoughts increase your mood, improve your thinking, and help you and your colleagues have a more positive workplace environment.

Instead of being a "Negative Nancy," be a "Positive Penelope." Focus on the positive, and be the best teacher you can be. The effects will be evident not only in the classroom, but in every aspect of your life.

3 Ways to Make Teaching Math Fun and Easy

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Become legendary in your school for making math fun and easy.  

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When you ask a student what they think about math, typical responses likely include "I hate it," "It's boring," or "It's too hard." I know these negative associations all too well because I struggled with math as a child. As a visual and hands-on learner, I felt like a lot of my teachers didn't present mathematical concepts in a way that I was able to understand. This, along with my experience as a kindergarten teacher, has fostered a love of teaching math. If you want to make teaching math fun and easy, try these three approaches.

How to Regain Classroom Control When Students Are Loud and Unruly

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As a teacher, classroom control isn't always easy. Imagine walking into a classroom that's out of control. Students are running around the room, chatting with their friends, or even standing on desks and chairs. The dynamics of the room are unbearable and your blood pressure rises as you begin to lose your patience. You take a deep breath, walk to the front of the room, and turn off the lights hoping that at least some students will realize it's time to get started.

Now, imagine that all students are engaged in the lesson, asking questions, discussing their own learning, and excited to participate. We all want this in our classrooms, but it's not always easy. It's important to remember that while there's no such thing as a teacher with perfect classroom management, having some tips and tricks can help you consistently quiet your class and regain classroom control. Try these three techniques.

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The First Day of Kindergarten: An Open Letter to Parents

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Dear parents,

The first day of kindergarten has arrived, and I'm sure you're feeling a series of emotions. As your child is raving in the back seat about how excited they are for their first day of school, you're probably having second thoughts: Will my baby be OK? What am I going to do all day without him/her? Will I finally be able to go to the bathroom in peace? These are just some of the questions racing through your mind as you pull into the school parking lot.

It's time to calm down, take a deep breath, and let me put the first day of kindergarten into perspective for you.

We All Have First-Day Jitters

When it comes to the first day of school, it's OK to be a basket case. Let's face it: You're probably feeling even less stable than your child, but that's normal. However, it's important to understand that you're not the only one who's nervous.

It's normal for a child to exhibit many emotions on the first day. Some children face separation anxiety, which leads to crying, while others run around uncontrollably because they're so excited. These behaviors and others are completely normal. It's important to know that teachers are trained to deal with them, and eventually, your child will adjust and feel comfortable with their new school-day routine.

As for teachers, welcoming a new group of students can be nerve-wracking. Imagine being responsible for 25 witty, energetic, and unfiltered 5-year-olds. On top of that, we're often more nervous about meeting you than your children. But don't worry, we're dedicated to making this transition as easy and stress-free as possible for both you and your child.

Kindergarten Is a Big Adjustment

I won't sugarcoat it: Kindergarten is a big step in your child's life (and probably in yours). One thing's for sure: Kindergarten isn't what it used to be!

The days of naps and unstructured play are long gone. Your child will be expected to learn a number of concepts throughout the year, like reading. You heard me correctly—READING! These kids are entering a world where they're expected to learn and show proof of it. Since kindergarten is much more rigorous now, you may worry that your child's capacity for success is limited. Just know that their success is our main goal, and we will do everything we can to ensure they complete kindergarten with all the right tools and skills.

In addition to finding themselves in an education-focused mindset, students are typically going from a self-centered world into one where they have to interact with several other students all day. Your child will meet a number of new acquaintances. Some of these will be immediate friends, but with others, it may take time to establish relationships. If you're concerned about bullies, remember that teachers are trained to handle both desirable and undesirable student interactions and provide guidance in conflict resolution if necessary.

Overall, kindergarten is an exciting time for your child, but it can be exhausting as well. Don't be surprised if they come home during the first month of school and their energy, behavior, or desire to attend school has changed. It takes time to adjust to these drastic changes, so just hang in there.

Your Child Is in Good Hands

It's easy to worry about your child being away from you all day and being watched by someone you barely know. But whether their teacher is fresh out of college or has taught for years, know that we do everything we can to ensure a safe, positive, and successful year for your child. In order to help make this happen and turn your child into a confident learner, teamwork and cooperation will be required by all.

No matter how overwhelmed, emotional, or nervous you or your child may be, it's important to know that they're in good hands. And consider this: while you might miss them while they're at school, you'll finally know what it's like to go to the bathroom alone!

Have a wonderful year!

Yours truly,

A Kindergarten Teacher

4 Funny Student Excuses from a Kindergarten Classroom

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Whether it's avoiding something they don't want to do or attempting to cover a mistake, student excuses run the gamut. As a kindergarten teacher, you'd think I'd be spared a ride on the excuse caboose. But in reality, kids really do say the darndest things.

Here are some of the funniest one-liners I've heard from my students.

 

My Inspiration to Be a Teacher: From Tennis Instructor to Kindergarten Teacher

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I could never imagine myself being in any other profession than teaching. My inspiration to be a teacher stems from my love of teaching today's youth to be productive, well-respected citizens. However, I decided that in order to truly understand the impact I have on my students, I should ask the most open, honest, and unfiltered individuals I know: my kindergarten students. When I asked them why they thought I wanted to be a teacher, I got some fairly spot-on responses, like "You want to teach kids and have fun" and "You get cookies and cupcakes for birthday treats, too!" While these reasons certainly aren't untrue, here's a bit more on why I became a teacher, and what fuels me in the classroom each and every day.

From Pretend to Reality

Growing up in a household of educators, one might say that I was destined to be a teacher at a young age. As a child, I often pretended I was leading a classroom with my stuffed animals. However, this fictitious game of teacher drastically changed when I received a phone call from a local tennis club about teaching a summer tennis camp to 3- to 5-year-old campers. After accepting the job and hanging up the phone, I anxiously danced around the house in pure bliss. But this trance of excitement suddenly came to a halt when fear sunk in. "Wait, did I hear him right?" I thought. "3- to 5-year-olds? How am I supposed to teach students at this age the basic game of tennis?" Let's face it: I was worried.

"Aha" Moment

The first day of tennis camp arrived and I was sweating bullets. As five 3- to 5-year-olds entered the tennis court, I took a deep breath and said a prayer. I started the class by introducing myself and teaching the kids how to hold their tennis rackets. Boom! They all got it right away—or so I thought. The next minute they were all holding their tennis rackets the wrong way. "Is this what it's like to be a teacher?" I thought. Instead of getting frustrated or giving up, I found myself feeling motivated to be persistent and remind my students until they grasped certain concepts about the game.

On day one, I was hit by five tennis balls (man do some of those kids have a swing) and I lost a group of students after sending them on a bathroom break (don't worry, I found them). But overall, it was a pretty successful day. The rest of the week reassured me of my abilities to teach students the game of tennis and this experience led me to an "aha" moment. I realized how much I enjoyed working with younger children and teaching them the basic skills of the game. This experience also made me realize that I can be as silly, crazy, funny, or weird as I want, and my younger students still think I'm what society calls "normal." This experience is exactly what motivated me to pursue teaching.

Sweeter Than Any Birthday Treat

I'm in my fourth year of teaching kindergarten, and as much as I love a good birthday cookie, being a teacher is better than any dessert I've ever had. It's extremely rewarding, and I am truly blessed to do what I'm passionate about for a living. As an educator, you're one of the most influential people in your students' lives. They look to you for guidance, encouragement, compassion, and strength. To this day, I still remember who my teachers were from preschool to 12th grade. They taught me to pass on the love of learning and to create lifelong learners, and I hope my students feel the same way.

As a male kindergarten teacher, I'm often asked about my inspiration to be a teacher. When I first started to wander down the teaching path, people would make negative remarks about my decision. "You know you're not going to make any money, right?" was something I heard often. To me, teaching isn't as much about the money as it is about making a difference in the lives of today's youth. I knew it would be a full-time commitment and that I would encounter many challenges, but I also knew the positives would always outweigh the challenges I might face. I always wanted a job that I was excited to get up in the morning to go to, and being a teacher has certainly met those expectations.

Accommodating Different Learning Styles: 3 Tips to Guide You

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As educators, we know all students have different learning styles. Some students are auditory learners, some are kinesthetic learners, and some are visual learners. The more engaged a student is in their learning, the more likely he or she is to succeed in the classroom. As an educator, the first step is to have the knowledge and understanding of the various learning styles and then provide your students with a variety of learning experiences to meet their individual needs. Here are three tips to guide you.