Monday, February 12, 2018

Improving Teacher Morale With Incentives

Are looking to improve school or teacher morale in your building?  Whether you are a principal or part of a morale-boosting committee, check out this post on what incentives teachers want most!

Improving Teacher Morale With Incentives

Some things to keep in mind before choosing your incentives:

  • Remember:  It isn't the gift/prize, it is the thought that someone cares.
  • Get to know your staff. Some people would rather have tangible prizes, while others would be thrilled with having their class covered for an hour. 

Some general low-cost or no-cost prizes that teachers might like: 

  • Scratch-Off lottery tickets (check to make sure they are allowed in your building first) 
  • Passes to wear jeans on a non-jeans day
  • Someone will bring coffee/their favorite beverage to their classroom
  • Candy delivery
  • Make their copies
  • Recess coverage
  • Offer to help grade a set of papers (1/2 hour of time. )
  • Lunch delivered from a take- out restaurant.
  • Give little “pick-me-ups” through the year at random times. For example, Post-it pad and a pen, or a sheet of stickers and a bookmark...cute little things that are inexpensive but that brighten a teacher's day. 

For administrators:

  • Waive your walk through/observation for the day
  • Get out of school free pass - allowed to leave 10 -15 minutes early one day
  • Let the teacher leave when the students leave one day
  • Late start for the day (cover homeroom)
  • The teacher gets a "free" day to do something fun with their class, maybe board games, outside time, sidewalk chalk art, whatever the teacher thinks will be fun.
  • Offer to cover an hour of class for a teacher so they can have extra planning or a longer lunch.
  • Reserved parking spot (Depends on size of school)

What are some things you'd add to the list?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cuddle Up With February’s Diffuser Blend

Hello, and welcome to Heather's Hypothesis! I'm Heather Reeve: 7th grade Life Science teacher, mom, wife, and essential oil lover.   Each month, I'll be sharing a different essential oil blend and getting scientific about each of its ingredients. 

With that being said, let's get right to February's  blend: Cuddle Up Concoction. 

Cuddle Up With February’s Diffuser Blend

You can make this blend with:
2 Cedarwood
2 Lavender
2 Ylang Ylang
2 Wild Orange

Cuddle Up Concoction is the perfect blend for February because:
We can always use more reasons to cuddle up.  This particular blend helps us wind down after a long day and helps us connect with our loved ones.

Let's talk about why each of the Ingredients are so effective:

If you don’t have cedarwood, please put it in your cart!  It has an amazing earthy scent that grounds and soothes your nerves.  This is the part of the blend that helps us relax.  This is why it’s often used in massage therapy.  It also increases focus for those of us with AD/HD because it increases concentration, while soothing anxious feelings. Ladies, this is the oil that shuts down the million tabs we have open in our brains. It takes us from feeling alone to feeling connected: Perfect for encouraging cuddling. 

This is another oil that EVERYONE needs.  It can be diffused, taken internally, or used topically to promote relaxation and sleep.  It also helps with soothing skin irritations, such as acne or mild scrapes and burns. 

Its main makeup is linalool, which is a naturally occurring terpene alcohol found in many flowering and spice plants.  It’s what gives many cleaning products and perfumes their smell and interestingly enough, it can also be used as a flea, fruit fly, and cockroach insecticide.  Now, it’s important to note that Linalool is also what gets exploited in typical beauty products and cleaners. If you’ve ever smelled REAL lavender and then compared it to “lavender-scented” products, you can immediately tell that the scented products are less linalool and more chemically produced. 

Ylang Ylang
 I like to call Ylang Ylang the “poor man’s Jasmine”, at least as far as smells go.  They both are used in many perfumes and also to relax and encourage, uh, cuddling. Ylang ylang is what gives our blend its relaxing and uplifting qualities.  It promotes a positive outlook that I personally need in these dark days of winter. It takes us from burdened to exuberant, which is particularly important for women. We often can’t turn off our mental to-do lists, and we need to!

Wild Orange
This is the energizing part of our blend that also promotes a healthy immune system.  It takes us from drained to productive, which is especially important in these dark days of winter. We come home exhausted and ready to collapse from workout no all day. Wild orange gives us that energy to give back to our loved ones. 

Fun facts To compliment the Cuddle Up Concoction  Blend:
Ylang Ylang can be added to a facial steam to refresh your skin.  

Many “love potions diffuser blends” have Ylang Ylang in them.  Could that be because it relaxes you and opens your mind?  Just some food for thought….

Have a great month and I’ll see you next time on Heather’s Hypothesis where I’ll be sharing a blend inspired by St. Patrick’s Day!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Is Extra Credit a Viable Teaching Tool?

Does your school require you to give extra credit to students who don’t get the grades they expected?  Do you wonder how to make extra credit a viable teaching tool without creating unnecessary work for yourself?  Then my post on extra credit is for you!

Is Extra Credit a Viable Teaching Tool?

Many schools are moving toward a “no fail” policy for students.  In response, teachers are turning to creative ways to help students learn the material. One such way is extra credit. 

First, I’d like to look at the pros and cons.


If a student wants to show mastery of the content in a way other than a test, you might want to consider it on a case by case basis, but it would have to be something meaningful.  I talk more about that in the "Things to Consider" section below.


If you already do the following, it might pad a student's grade too much if you add extra credit on to those activities:
Test corrections for partial credit
Extended time to complete assignments with no penalty

Things to consider before allowing students to use extra credit:

Is it meaningful?  In other words: 
Does it align to the standards you are teaching?
Could it take the place of a classwork grade or a test grade?
Will it help a student master the subject matter?

Is the student missing work that would prepare them for completing the extra credit?
If students haven't completed homework and classwork, how will they know the information well enough to complete the extra credit?  You may want to have them complete the missing assignments and give them credit for those before assigning extra credit.

How much will it count?
10% of the grade?
Replacing a test grade?
Replacing a classwork grade?

How difficult should extra credit be?
More difficult than classwork or homework?
The same level of difficulty as those assignments?

Will it include extra curricular activities that tie into what you are teaching?
For example, if a family goes to a museum, could a student present orally or in writing what they learned?  What about family vacations?
Can students play online games and take screen shots to show they have mastered the information for extra credit?
Can a student use a study guide they created to take or retake a test for extra credit?

What's your stance on extra credit?  I could always use a fresh perspective!

Monday, January 8, 2018

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice

How do you teach if you can't talk?  It's that time of year again where the germs are everywhere and even the most seasoned teacher is susceptible to getting sick.  If you're looking for some tips on how to keep the learning going when you're not feeling well, then this post is for you!

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice

Step 1: Take care of yourself
If you are truly sick and feeling awful, take a day off and get yourself rested!  No one wants to share germs and you won't get better if you push yourself beyond your limits.  And while you're at it, DON'T bring any work home.  You're not resting if you're working.

With that being said, if you still feel well enough to push on, here are some strategies to get you through the day.

Drink hot tea with honey and magnesium.  
Click here to read about how I make my tea.

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice: Magnesium Tea

Diffuse essential oils to combat your sore throat.
My favorite blend for this is lemon, lavender, and peppermint.

How to Teach When You’ve Lost Your Voice: Singer's Spray

Step 2:  Be Honest With Students
Just being honest and asking the students for a personal favor of being quiet and paying close attention has always worked for me.

Step 3:  Write and display your directions to the class
Some ways to do this:

  • PowerPoint slides 
  • Posters
  • If students have access to computers, put your directions on an online repository so students can read the directions and move at their own pace

I’ve typed my directions as I go and projected them on the screen so kids have to read to know what to do. 

Step 4: Assign students as class leaders to relay directions

Step 5: Use visual cues to get students attention
These could include:

  • Clapping for their attention
  • Flicking the lights on and off
  • Raise your hand and have your class leaders quiet those around them

Step 6: Use Self-Guided Stations
Be sure to have some of these ready BEFORE you get sick.  Teach your students how to use them ahead of time.  It's not going to work well to try to teach students how to complete the stations when you have no voice.

Step 7: Use Class Incentives
As a last resort, I have a “prize bag” that floats from desk to desk of students who are paying attention. They get their name in a raffle for a small reward at the end of the day. They get super quiet when they see me walk over and put the bag on a student’s desk.

What do you do when you have to teach with no voice?  I can always use more tricks up my sleeve!

Get Inspired to Cut the Clutter

Are you in need of some motivation to organize your work space?  Behold January’s essential oil blend: Cut the Clutter!

It's that time of year when we have a natural energy for getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose in our lives or classrooms.  The problem is, there's only so many hours in the day and the days after winter break seem to take all our motivation.  So, I created a diffuser blend to help us find our motivation and get the job done!

Get Inspired to Cut the Clutter with this essential oil diffuser blend

Here’s why I chose each oil:

This gives the blend a subtle citrus and herb smell.  It promotes a positive outlook by heightening awareness and helping the person move from an obstructed mind to one that is flowing.  So it’s perfect for helping us clear the clutter.  

The original blend included lemon and lime, but after experimenting with a few different options, I liked bergamot in place of those.  Unlike the other citrus oils, Bergamot is both uplifting and calming.  It helps clear the mental clutter by helping us move from a mindset of inadequacy to worthiness.  

Douglas Fir
Depending on what Dougie is mixed with, it can have a citrus or apple sidenote to it.  In this blend, it does take on the citrus smell.  This adds to the uplifting mood we are trying to create by moving our perspective from upset to renewed.  

I use cinnamon bark for this blend, which seems like an odd addition to this blend, but I promise you will not be disappointed.  It really does add a spiciness that blends so well with the citrus.

So, let’s get scientific about the main organic compound of cinnamon: Cinnamaldehyde.  This is what gives cinnamon its flavor, color, and insect-repellent qualities.  It’s also the reason you can’t apply it neat to skin (you need to dilute it with a carrier oil). 

What to do:
Fill your diffuser with room-temperature water
Add the quantities of oils in the picture above to the diffuser 
Turn the diffuser on and keep it near you as you decide what needs to be organized or tossed

Easy peasey!

If you have any questions or want support on your essential oil journey, just drop me a line!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Classroom Management Series: Restroom Usage Policy

Are you looking for some time-tested, evidence-based ways to enhance your classroom management?  My post on creating a restroom usage policy will guide you through the steps to help you decide if you need a restroom usage policy and how to implement one!

This is the fourth post in my Classroom Management Series.  If you missed it, be sure to check out the previous posts:
Teaching Expectations After the Year has Started

Classroom Management Series: Restroom Usage Policy

First, let me say that this is one of those tough situations because no one wants to restrict bathroom usage. 

Students should be able to use the restroom whenever they need to, right?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t guide students with some good classroom management!

Step 1: Make Sure It’s Not a Medical Issue

If you notice the same students going to the restroom over and over, ask the school nurse if there’s anything medically relevant that you should know about the student in relation to bathroom usage.  If not, the nurse might want to call home and make sure the medical records aren't missing some important medical information about the student in that area.  

Step 2: Talk to Students Individually 

Have a conversation with the students who go at the same time consistently and make a plan for what they need to be successful.  Sometimes just a chat with the student will clear things up.

Step 3: Don’t Restrict Restroom Use at All, But Still Have Policies in Place. 

For Example:

  • Whenever possible, have students go between periods. 
  • Alternatively, have them ask to use the restroom as soon as they come in the room. 
  • If a student must go after class has started, they can go with a pass as long as it's during their independent work time. 
  • Make sure students leave their cell phone with the teacher when they leave to use the restroom.

What if you've tried all this, but it's still not working?

Keep a Log of When/Where/How Long a Student Uses the Restroom

If, however, students are roaming the hallways or abusing their restroom privileges, then you might want to keep a log of when/how long they are gone and when they return.  This is an excellent tool to share with parents and your colleagues so that everyone is on the same page.  

Before reading the next part, I urge you to read this article, written by a pediatric urologist about restricting restroom usage.

Use a Punch Card

Some schools have a school-wide pass that students get every nine weeks.  It’s a punch card with two punches per class.  A nice behavior management technique to go with this is allowing students to “purchase” additional out of class passes with classroom incentive “bucks”.  Everyone wins in this case because students have to make good choices in order to earn their bucks to buy extra bathroom or out of class time.

Some Things to Consider Before Using a Punch Card:  

  • What will you do if the students lose their pass?  
    • Will you enforce the policy that they won’t be able to leave class?  
    • Will you have them “buy” passes as a backup in that case?
  • What if students don't use all their punches?  
    • Can they turn them in for extra credit or classroom privileges?

Do you do anything else regarding your restroom usage policy?  This is one of those subjects I can't ever learn enough about, so please share your thoughts and tips with me!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Classroom Management Series: How to be a Classroom Leader Instead of a Boss

Are you looking for some time-tested, evidence-based ways to enhance your classroom management?  Would you like to be a leader, rather than a boss in your classroom?  Then my post on how to be a classroom leader is for you!

This is the third post in my Classroom Management Series.  If you missed it, be sure to check out the previous posts:
Teaching Expectations After the Year has Started

Classroom Management Series: How to be a Classroom Leader Instead of a Boss

Consistency is Key
Be consistent with rules across the board.  If there's one thing a middle-schooler can spot, it is inequity in how rules are applied.  Students like to see consistency and fairness.  Students like structure. Enforcing rules doesn't make you mean. Two things that I want students know: I care about them and I mean business.

Some things I'm consistent about:

  • Don't start any directions or activities until every student is quiet and has eyes on you. 
  • Before letting them touch any materials, review expectations or directions.  This even applies to tests. 
  • Don't be afraid to completely stop everything if you feel like it is spiraling out of control. Sometimes a few minutes of silent reflection as a class is all that's needed for everyone to return to the task at hand with fresh eyes.

Even Though Consistency is Key, It is OKAY (even wise) to start over with your expectations if things aren't going well. 
The advice I gave in my post about Teaching Expectations After the Year has Started was to start over after the new quarter begins.You may want to start by writing down procedural expectations for things like turning in papers, using supplies, etc. If you've already written these expectations down, review them and make sure they are still working for you and the class.    

Review Expectations Often
Quickly reviewing your classroom expectations before your class is expected to work independently on something will help students who are auditory learners.  Also, reviewing expectations often, especially after holiday breaks, is a key to success.

Try Some Professional Development
Leaning and reflecting will make you a better teacher almost instantly.  Ask your administration if you can get coverage for your classroom so you can go into some well-run classrooms to observe and take notes.  I love learning from teachers who just seem to flawlessly execute classroom management! 

It's important to remember:  The fact that you are asking for help shows great courage and desire to be a good teacher.

Build Relationships With Students
  • Write down their birthdays
  • Talk to students and remember details about their life.  Ask them about it the next day! 
  • Smile at them and chat with them whenever possible (in the hallway, in the lunch room, etc.). 
They are a thousand more times likely to want to learn from a teacher that cares about them and their lives!

Target Problem Students... in a Good Way

Try the 2x10 activity- Pick out a student with whom you are struggling. Find 2 minutes to chat with them in the day about nothing class-related. Do this for 10 days in a row. It be awkward at first, but by the 3rd or 4th day, they will look for you and look forward to it. After 10 days, choose another student.

I believe this is the single, most important thing you must do to be an effective teacher. It doesn't take much...anything to show you care. Make sure you try hardest with the most difficult students. They are the ones that need it the most! Be sincere and be interested in them.

Relax a Little

I am a Type A person and have to rein it in. Decide which behavioral expectations must stay and which do not matter. The fewer things you hold fast to, the easier it may be for students to live up to your expectations and not feel like they are being micromanaged.

Let them know you’re approachable and down to earth. Show them a sense of humor by being able to laugh with them.

Have Something for Students to be Doing From the Moment They Walk in the Door
It establishes the tone and expectation for the class, as well as getting students to think about the curriculum.  Every day in my classroom, there is a numbered list on the screen the second the students walk into the room. As students trickle in, they immediately begin to complete the list, which almost always starts with filling out their agenda.  As I take attendance and check homework, they are engaged in completing the list.

Alternatives to the itemized list (all posted on the board for the students as they arrive):

  • A bellringer 
  • Daily review question
  • Entrance ticket 

Join me next time, when I'll be continuing my Classroom Management Series with a complicated issue:  Restroom Usage Policy.