Monday, July 28, 2014


You can now purchase my Instagrammar Templates at my TPT store! Click here:

Decorating for a high school classroom is not easy. Everything that's out there is either cheesy, outdated or very elementary school looking.

So most high school teachers opt out of decor and settle for a few nice posters. I have acquired many posters in the last 4 years of teaching that I still really love in my classroom. But when I saw that my new classroom had 2 large bulletin boards, I knew I had to come up with something good...something more exciting than posters.

My mom is the ace at bulletin board design. For the longest time she worked in an elementary school media center, and was responsible for decorating the bulletin boards. Over the years I watched her make some incredible bulletin boards, which usually replicated a popular book title at the time. So my mom gave me the inspiration for my latest bulletin board... One of her bulletin boards is currently trending on Pinterest right now and I was inspired by it...

So I made this Instagrammar bulletin board, full of pictures posted by "Grammar Queen," a handle I made up. I copied the template of Instagram in photoshop (which kind of took me a long time), found the closest Instagram font (the main typing font is Arial, but the title font looks similar to a free font you can download called "Billabong") and started coming up with captions for silly grammar mistakes found in the real world. No, this is not a real Instagram account; it has all been photoshopped.

And here was the outcome...

This is a sample of what the individual pictures look like...

The only thing I would change is the fabric background. I chose white because I wanted it to be most authentic to the actual Instagram layout, but unfortunately that doesn't make the photos pop like I want them to. If I get the energy I will probably take them down and glue each photo to black or blue paper so they really pop against the white. 

My classroom is really coming along! I have my other two bulletin boards finished as homage to John Green and a pretty Pinterest inspired book with butterflies. I'll blog and post photos about them soon!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Designing My Own Teacher Planner

Basic photoshop skills + summer break + a weird obsession with planners = 

So I did it. I designed my very own teacher planner and gradebook. And I love it. And you can buy the downloadable pdfs for only $5 if you love it too!

How did this come about, you're thinking?

Well, I have been obsessed with planners since high school.

I have always loved examining the planners at Barnes & Noble or Target, flipping through the pages, measuring up the size, deciding on the perfect cover. Nothing feels more satisfying than looking at my life sprawled out in meticulous colorful handwriting on a few spiraled-together pages of paper. Nothing.

I even keep my planners from year's past so I can look back at my life and see all the events that were important enough for me to write down.

Now, being a self proclaimed advocate of using technology to make life easier, I have tried to move my calendar-of-life to my iPhone and Google Calendar. But something about it just won't stick. Perhaps it is the pain of scrolling through the options, clicking on each day and slowly typing in the details, or perhaps it is because I fail to check my phone or reference it in times of need, or perhaps it is the complete lack of satisfaction I feel afterward.

So I gave up on my attempt at transferring my planner love to the digital world.

Then it dawned on me! Why not design my own inserts for my own planner? A planner that had exactly what I needed with plenty of pages for grading and planning and no cheesy cover and no excessive resource pages and wouldn't cost me $100 (ahem, Erin Condren...). Yeah! I can do that...

...17 hours of photoshopping later...

I finally came up with this: a complete teacher planner and gradebook that just screams Ms. B in all its glory. Once I got going I got a little carried away and even made parent contact logs, checklists, calendars, attendance pages and an array of covers.

Here's a little peek .... (the cover shown below is obviously customized for me, but the downloadable version is blank)

Love it? Buy it and download it here!

I'm taking the .pdfs to FedEx to have them printed in color and bound in a notebook. I made myself a customized one, but also decided to make a generic one for anyone who may want to purchase this...

Which leads to my first debut on Teachers Pay Teachers, an awesome website where you can sell, buy and download tons of school resources made by other teachers. I've only begun to dabble with all it has to offer, which is very exciting. My next plan is to sell the template/layout I made for my Instagrammar Bulletin board (I'll blog about this very soon!)

I'd like to start putting more school worksheets and lessons I've designed up there but this project was quite an ambitious place to start...and summer is dwindling fast so I better get off my computer and enjoy the sunshine while I can.

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store if you want to buy the downloadable .pdfs of my planner!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Big Changes for Ms. B

I am not even sure where or how to begin this blog post. It is my first blog post in 2014.

Since I last posted, everything has changed. Everything has changed...and yet nothing has changed at all.

Big Change #1: I am living back at home. 

Unlike when I first began blogging in 2010, I now have two roommates: my mom and my dad. It makes me smile to read my old posts about my roommate-mom helping me prep for my first days as a professional teacher. Now it makes me smile knowing that I have both my parents back right where they have always been. And me. In the room I grew up in.

I know as a 27 year old female I should probably write something like this next: "Living back at home has had both its rewards and its challenges." But that's just not true. In fact, it's almost wrong how good it feels to live at home at my age. My mom is a great cook. My dad is hilarious. And they are both pretty much my best friends. I'm not even ashamed to say it.

Plus, let's face it, when I did a credit check and saw my total college debt all compiled in a tidy column on the computer screen, the number actually took my breath away (and not in the sexy way that your breath can be taken the "oh-shit-I-can't-breathe-I-can't-breathe" way).

I have been back at home since December 1st of 2013, when my awesome (not sarcastic, she really is awesome) roommate of three years decided it was time she become a professional single woman and live on her own. Plus, I should probably own up to the fact that I am sure she was tired of my dirty dishes taking up all the room in the sink.

Moving in with my parents was actually a godsend. Some unexpected events transpired in my life in March of this year that pretty much turned my world upside down. I don't know what I would have done without my mom listening to my every thought and worry, my dad finding ways to make me laugh in spite of it all, and both of them answering their cell phones every time I had a mini-emotional-breakdown at home and needed someone to cry to.

So living back at home, even in my mid-twenties, has been exactly what I needed this year.

Now even after said events, I did land on my two feet sound and stable and am now ready to make the next big step...which I'm sure many women have already made at my age and younger...and that is to finally live on my own! More to come on that in the future...

Big Change #2: I am no longer coaching. And I don't plan on it any time soon. 

I started becoming involved with coaching dance when I was 20. At the time, it was something that I enjoyed but also thought would help me get a teaching job. It did exactly that.

But then coaching pretty much took over my life. I dedicated every spare moment of my free time to being with my team, thinking about my team or talking to other coaches about my team. I put coaching above teaching. I put coaching above my family. Worst of all, I put coaching above myself and my own needs. It started changing who I was. I started acting like some raging, bitchy, rhinestone obsessed dance fanatic who cared way too much about what shade of lipstick my team was going to wear at the next competition. It was gross. And it wasn't me.

I even started developing some anxiety issues in late summer of 2012 that, after seeking some professional counseling, were found to be linked directly to my insanely over packed schedule. Why was my schedule over packed? Coaching. I had no balance in my life.

Though the end to this chapter in my life was sudden, traumatic, and nothing like what I had ever dreamed could have happened to me, it also breathed life back in to me. It gave me a moment to look inward and figure out what I truly enjoyed at the core of myself. I'm sure I'll always feel a bit of melancholy and longing at the thought of some of the amazing experiences I had as a dance coach, but I don't think I will ever ever go back.

Big Change #3: I am teaching at a new school!

Did I plan on changing schools year? Nope, not at all. Did this change happen because of a bunch of...hmmm, what's the word...shitty circumstances that came barreling at me this spring? Yes. But is it a change for the better? You BETCHA (I hope you read that in your most Fargo-like inner reading voice).

As soon as I knew I needed to find a new job I made finding a new job my fulltime job. (That sentence is grossly repetitive but I'm not even going to change it...god, I'm so empowered now, look at me). Filling out teacher applications Sucks with a capital S. Each school has their own set of essay questions, sometimes up to ten questions, that focus on something different. I love to write, don't get me wrong, but it's hard to be passionate and eloquent when answering the question, "How do you differentiate instruction in your classroom?" I was like an application question answering robot.

But I poured my heart and soul in to those damn questions...even though I knew, at the end of the day, someone may not ever read them. Someone might just say "Eh, she doesn't have enough cultural diversity training, not interested" and click on to the next teacher profile.

I filled out about 20 online teacher applications. And begrudgingly, I checked "yes" when it asked if I would be willing to coach their dance team. As much as I wanted to run far far away from the dance team life that will now forever haunt me, I know just as well as I did at age 21, that being a coach can sometimes be the make-or-break for getting a job.

Out of those 20-odd applications, I got two job interviews. TWO. If my ego and confidence hadn't already been completely trotted on in the weeks previous to that, the fact that my image on paper and my four years of teaching experience with radiating references was only appealing to two schools was downright devastating. But I did what I know how to do best, I put a sweet looking coral blazer on and interviewed my little teacher pants off. And I got the job one day later. I accepted a day after that. I didn't even go to the other interview. My gut told me this school was the right one.

What's so great about my new job is that I got hired based on me - my teaching, my experience, my finely crafted cover letter, my stellar recommendations from my principal and coworkers, my awesomeness in the interview... - not on my willingness to sell my soul and be their dance coach.  They already have a dance coach, and though in the interview the principal questioned me about my interest in starting a school newspaper, he said he didn't care whether or not I did any extracurriculars so long as I was only doing extracurriculars I whole-heartedly loved doing. [Insert sound of a tremendous exhalation of breath here].

Based on that alone, you should probably thinking "Wow, this new school sounds pretty great" but there's even more than that. I can't even get in to it all because I'm hoping I'll get to blog about it all in the near future, because in my perfect future world vision I am going to have tons of time for writing and just be inspired 24/7 because I'm no longer coaching (wishful thinking, I know...also, run-on sentence, I know). But to graze over a few of its (ahem, monetary) selling points and jump right to the clincher... On Monday, I'm going on a Mississippi river cruise to get to know the English department where "reciting quotations from Huck Finn are welcome and appreciated."  I mean seriously, this is my life now. (Side note to self: you have three days to finish reading Huck Finn)


So those are the big changes. Pretty life-rattling stuff, right? But looping back to my introduction, even with so much changing in my life, at the core of it, absolutely nothing has changed. And that is beautiful.

When I was going through that, y'know, shitty thing this spring, my brother and I met in downtown Minneapolis for lunch. I am a dork and still get really excited about the idea of being in downtown Minneapolis even though the city is literally 5 minutes away from my home. I put on my cutest cardigan and grabbed my purse for my quaint little city adventure. After parking in a ramp that I would later find out would cost me $17 for 1.25 hours of nesting my Kia, I hustled nervously but fake-confidently to our meeting spot.

As my brother and I ate pesto sandwiches, I looked at all the people who weren't in downtown Minneapolis because they thought it would be a fun outing for lunch. These were the women who actually wore the suits and starch white button up blouses and extra spiky patent heels that I always saw in the corner of The Limited while my arms were full of colorful teacher-y cardigans. They were in a hurry and preoccupied looking. They gathered in groups for Starbucks and impatiently scrolled through their cell phones while waiting for their extra-shot-of-espresso mochas.

While the freedom of being able to roam in a huge city for lunch, to be able to choose which kitschy food truck to dine at today, was alluring compared to my life of soft lunch boxes and cramped staff lounges, I couldn't help but wonder what these "downtown people" were going back to after their downtown lunches. Was it a cubicle? Was it an angry boss? Was it a boring work meeting?

Suddenly nothing about the downtown business world appealed to me.

Without a doubt, I knew at that moment that I would never leave teaching. Even though the opportunity to change my career path presented itself to me this year, I know that I am magnetized to education. It is in my blood. It is who I am.

So while so much has changed, at the core I am finding that truly nothing has changed. Through it all, I am a teacher and always will be.

That reason is the reason why I am chomping at the bit to decorate my new classroom, why I am constantly pinning teacher tips on Pinterest, and why I am here, updating "Ms. B's Got Class."

Because I still do have "class." It's just not in session for about 8 more weeks :-)