DIY Creative School Welcome Wall

The kids have arrived! And it’s been fun, fun to see how excited everyone is to be back at school. The school is looking pretty good, and teachers are getting back into the routine and flow of our school days. But last week was a different story! Everyone was hustling to get classrooms set-up, first week plans figured out, and the school overall ready to greet kids for the first day.

One of the hustle projects I worked on was DIY-ing a Creative School Welcome Wall. It’s a project I’ve done for the past few years, and each year I think about how to do it a little differently. This year I was inspired to create a cool watercolor theme, and was super psyched about the result.

A school welcome wall is a terrific way to add some positivity and beauty to a school environment.

In case you’re thinking you might like to work on a School Welcome Wall yourself, here are the steps I took to create ours.

1. Choose a Space 

You can go big or small with the space you choose, but I’m always about bigger can be better when it comes to designing showcase boards/walls such as a Welcome Space. With this particular wall, I’m introducing our staff so I wanted to get as creative and artistic as I could in doing so. And for that, I needed a bigger space.

At first glance it was just a plain white wall, that I could have stuck a few photos to and called it good. But that just wouldn’t be my style.

So I fancied it up with some cool cabinet knobs that I found at Hobby Lobby. I asked our custodian to help me drill them in, then I had the perfect photo hanging accessory. A little black string tied from knob to knob, and voila! I’ve just created the perfect space to work with.

2. Take Some Photos

Next step – photos. I grabbed my camera, chose a consistent neutral background, and snapped away during a staff meeting break. That way, I had all 35+ staff members in the same location, and didn’t have to spend a ton of time tracking everyone down.

3. Gather Your Materials

Ooo, this was the fun part. I started by designing the watercolor “theme” I was going to go with, which included a Welcome sign, name frames, and small squares to serve as a backing for each teacher’s “fun fact.” (note – I printed all these materials on thick white paper both for better color and sturdiness)

And guess what?! I put together all the materials I created for the Welcome Wall in a downloadable kit just for you. Woo Hoo!

Sign up for blog updates and get the Free Watercolor Welcome Board Printables

4. Start Assembling

With the watercolor theme in mind, I chose black and kraft-colored card stock for the backing, and some fun washi tape for matting the photos.

I also asked teachers to write a “fun fact” about themselves on a post it note. These will be put on top of the watercolor squares.

5. Put It Up!

After each photo collage was assembled, I hung them up using more washi tape, and organized them by grade level/administration/specialist team. Teachers have been super busy with the first week of school, so I don’t have all the ‘fun facts’ up yet, but we’ll get there.

Once I had each photo hung, I stood back, admired my work, and gave myself a pat on the back for a job well done. It’s been fun to hear from teachers how excited they were to see the new staff Welcome Wall :)

And just for kicks, the glorious before and after of this fun and rewarding DIY project:

I hope you had some fun reading this post and thinking about what Welcome Space you may be able to create at your school for this year. If you do decide to DIY a Creative School Welcome Wall, send me a pic! I’d love to see it.

Happy School DIY-ing!

8 Ways to Get Pumped for the School Year

I woke up on Monday morning this week and thought:

Oh man. This is it. My last week of Summer 2016.

Sad day.

Here’s the thing: A little case of the Summer’s Over Blues is totally normal and allowed. So I let myself get a little blue-sy, thought about all of my fun summer memories, but then I knew it was time to move on and get those blues turned around. STAT.

So this week I swung myself into Let’s Get Pumped for School Mode. And I’m feeling goooood!

If you’ve been feeling a little Summer’s Over Blue-sy too, or you’re just looking to add a bit more swagger in your step as you head into the new year, I’ve got you covered.

Here are a few of my favorite ‘Get Pumped for the School Year’ tips and resources.

BTW – Make sure you get to the last tip. I’ve got a special little treat for you :)

1. Back to School Shopping

Back in my elementary school days, there was pretty much nothing that used to get me more excited than Back to School shopping. Seriously! The smell of a new back pack, new crayons and My Little Pony Folders, and of course a brand new pair of shoes. One year my mom bought me a pair of Reebok Pumps (remember those?!) and made me wait until the very first day of school to wear them. I was SO excited for the first day and my new Reebok Pumps, I couldn’t even stand it!!!

And to this day, I still go Back to School Shopping with my mom, pick out a new outfit, and set it aside for the first day of school. It’s so fun! Here are a few cute things I grabbed for this year:

2. Get Organized

You know me…I looooove getting organized. And for good reason. Organization makes you feel happy, confident, and calm in the midst of what can be our chaotic days as educators.

This week I went through my Master List, got my August Monthly Plans in place, and broke out my new Time & ToDo Planner (TTP) for the year. I also got my Coaching Kit put together, Google Docs organized, and my bag all cleaned out. Feels great to be all set up and ready to jump back into the routine of my school days!

3. Decorate

I love decorating just about as much as I love organizing. And there’s pretty much no better time to decorate than the beginning of the school year. Just think of the possibilities!…your PD Pad, coaching office, or TTP. A well decorated space, big or small, helps you feel inspired and motivated to take on your day.

More details coming up this month on my updated coaching space, but it will definitely include lots of pics of the Sommie Dog and cool prints. (in the meantime, check out Michelle’s space)

And since I think you’re awesome and want you to have an inspiring space too, I made this print just for you!

When you download it you’ll find a 16×20″ file which you can print off at Walgreens, frame and put in your office. Sweet! I also made you a smaller letter size version of the poster, which you can laminate and put on the inside of your TTP or Coaching Kit so it’ll keep you going throughout the day :)

Sign up for blog updates and get the Free BE BOLD Poster

4. Set Some Goals

Last year I made this Goal Setting Tool to help you think about what you want to get better at as a coach. If you’ve already downloaded your copy (and if not, make sure to grab it!) and filled it out, take some time to revisit the goals you set for yourself and assess how you did. Is there an area where you’d like to put more of a focus on this year? Write that goal down and post it somewhere you’ll see it frequently.

Push yourself, learn along the way, and keep getting better.

5. Plan for Great PD

Planning PD can either be a dreaded, can’t someone else do it experience, OR something you’re pumped about and looking forward to. Something I’ve found to make PD planning and facilitation more exciting, is to make it fun! And by that I mean think about how you can shake things up this year from the standard talk, read, take notes model.

I went in this week and met with my coaching teammies to plan our beginning of year PD and it was fun! I’m definitely pumped for what we have planned for our new teachers next week.

And don’t you worry. I’ll for sure be sharing some fun ways to plan for great PD in these next few months :)

6. Coach a Coach

What do I mean by this? Teaching others about what you do is one of the best and maybe most important ways to get excited about your work. Just look at this blog! Staying connected with you and sharing about what I’m doing and learning as a coach totally gets me more excited about what I do.

And this will be an extra special year, since I get to work with Melissa as she begins to make her move into the world of coaching. She’ll likely be shadowing me for the beginning of the year to learn some coaching fundamentals, before she begins to get into a few classrooms on her own. I’m psyched!

So for you, is there anyone in your building who is interested in coaching or just taking on more of a leadership role? Could you initiate a connection with them somehow, or invite them to tag along with you for a coaching convo? Think creatively about how you might be able to inspire, mentor, or lead others.

7. Work It Out

Gretchen over at the awesome Always a Lesson Podcast, asked me in our chat last week what advice I have for teachers to stay ignited and passionate about their work. And the advice I have is pretty simple, but not always easy to do: Take Care of Yourself.

With all the demands of our days, and everyone else we’re taking care of in classrooms and schools, it’s so important to look out for yourself too.

And one of the best ways to do that is to Work It Out. In the morning, at lunch, after school, whenever. It doesn’t really matter when you do it, just do your best to make moving your body each day a non-negotiable in your schedule.

After a good cycle class in the morning, I feel like superwoman – pumped up and ready to attack the day!

And speaking of getting your body moving…

8. Dance Par-tay!

OK! How ya feeling? Hopefully you’ve got a big smile on your face and the first word that comes to mind is P-U-M-P-E-D, PUMPED!

Now listen up, because this part is important. Don’t forget the “STAY Pumped” part of this whole thing. When those tricky days come up (which they will), don’t forget about these tips. Maybe bookmark this post, and come on back here and we’ll dance it up together to get you back on the right track.

Here’s to a great year!

 

 

PS: Here are a few other posts you might like to check out as you get going with the year:

The First Weeks of School What Do I Do?

My First Week Back

PPS: If you’re feeling pumped up, please take a sec to share this post with others or leave a comment below. I sure would appreciate it!

How One Coach Keeps It All Together. A Story.

You kick up your feet and take a sip of your iced peach green tea, as you look out at the sunny summer afternoon and smile.

Oh how you love summer. Oh how you wish the summer days and land of no schedules would never go away. Ahhh…

You take another sip and decide you should probably take a look at the calendar and see what’s coming up.

As you look at your calendar you realize it’s already mid-July. And then you see it…the Back to School reminder.

Are you serious?! Already?! Where did the time go?!

OK, you think. Get a grip.

But I should probably start thinking about getting organized for the year.

K, so I’m going to keep using Google Calendar. I like how it reminds me about stuff.

Then I’ll write everything I need to do down in a new notebook. Writing helps me think, plan, and process. But last year things got all mixed up and lost with this system. Not good.

Bah!

Many of us coaches/teachers/administrators go through a “school’s starting soon, gotta get organized” revelation mid-summer.

Since we know that being organized is such a key piece to our success (and happiness!) throughout the year, when we’re freed up with a bit of extra time over the summer, those pushed aside thoughts of getting things together resurface and start nibbling their way to the forefront of our mind as we think of August quickly approaching.

Can I get a “Hey Yeah!” if you can relate?!

If so, what I’ve found helpful is to use a few of these summer days to get a solid planning system in place that will help you feel confident and prepared as you begin and move forward with a new school year.

And to help you get going, I thought I’d tell you a little story of how one coach keeps it all together. So go ahead and kick your feet back up, and keep sipping your iced peach green tea.

Meet Melissa. Melissa is a busy instructional coach, who really loves the work she does in schools everyday.

Melissa will be going into her second year as a coach. She supports two different schools, and has lots of responsibilities on her plate. On any given day, you might find her doing any of the following: planning or facilitating PD, gathering and reviewing resources, coaching up to 7 teachers in one of her coaching cycles, creating a school welcome board, or highlighting an important section on close reading in a book she wants to share with a teacher.

Melissa is a highly motivated, “can do” kind of gal and has worked hard to tweak and refine her planning system, to ensure she keeps all her ducks in a row.

Curious to get to know Melissa and her got-it-together system a bit better?

Cool. Let’s take a look:

1. Melissa has a weekly planning routine

One of the key routines that Melissa makes sure to schedule every week, is her Weekly Review. The Weekly Review is Melissa’s time to check-in, process, and plan. Her most preferred day for this weekly meeting with herself is Friday after school. She loves heading in to the weekend with her time and to-dos for the following week scheduled, and her head clear. So each Friday afternoon Melissa pops open the Iced Tea she packed that morning, grabs her Frixion erasable pens, computer, phone, Weekly Review checklist, and gets started.

2. Melissa figures out her time commitments for the week

Melissa has a hybrid planning system, using both digital and paper planning tools. She appreciates the strengths of each, and has learned that she really does prefer using both to keep it all together.

Melissa begins her Weekly Review by opening her computer and looking over her Google Calendar. She scans over all the hard commitments/inflexible events she has scheduled that week, including: personal or professional appointments, hard project deadlines, and any special holidays or birthdays. She transfers these into the weekly view in the planning spread of her Time & ToDo Planner. Melissa is a visual planner, and likes to see the time blocks of her week clearly laid out in front of her. She can also be easily distracted by her computer or phone when trying to reference her calendar, and appreciates the focus that paper provides.

 3. Melissa writes out her priorities for the week

Next, Melissa references the goals she’s set for herself this year, and uses these to set her focus for the week. This week she’s really trying to work on her three “P’s”

4. Melissa lists out her to-dos for the week

She looks through a few different locations to gather these up and identify what needs to go on this week’s plan. She starts by looking at last week’s plan to see if there were any “Upcoming To-Dos” she captured. She decides whether any of these will go on this week’s plan or if they will be put on her Master List, which she can come back to later.

Melissa’s Master List is a very important piece of her overall system. This is where she gets all of the tasks out of her head and recorded so she doesn’t get overwhelmed with a super long weekly list. She’s relaxed and assured that she hasn’t forgotten anything, and knows she’ll get to these tasks eventually, just not this week. Melissa prefers a digital tool for her Master List as it’s super flexible, allowing her to organize her list by category, rearrange, and add/delete.

She goes through the same process when going through emails, her physical inbox, and coaching notes for the week.

As Melissa analyzes her to-dos for next week, she decides to group them by Project. Super smart. This will help her batch her work throughout the week and be more efficient with her time.

5. Melissa figures out where to fit it all in

Here’s where Melissa balances it all. She checks her to-dos against her time and decides where her task-tackling work blocks will be for the week. She puts a box around these larger chunks of time on her schedule, so she can head into that particular day knowing exactly what she needs to do, and when. If she’s trying to do more than she realizes she has time for, she feels comfortable getting rid of some of the less important to-dos and transferring them back to her Master List.

She has fun with this part, as there’s just something special about writing on paper. It’s like there’s a part of her brain that gets fired up when she writes by hand, that doesn’t work as well when she tap-taps on her phone or keyboard. She can bullet, color-code, circle, star, bold, and doodle out her plans for the week. She’s not sure what the science behind it is, or if there even is any science about it. But she knows the magical-ness exists, so she uses it, and calls it: PAPER POWER!

6. Melissa maintains her system throughout the week

Things inevitably change throughout Melissa’s week, so she understands the importance of being flexible. A routine that has helped her stay on track is the 15 minutes of time she sets aside each morning and afternoon to check-in on her plan and revise as needed. Erasable pens are key here! When her days come to a close, she draws a line through the day to indicate it’s time to shut down and enjoy the evening.

Throughout the week Melissa captures thoughts and other to-do’s on the bottom of her weekly plan, or on her iPhone when she’s out walking her puppy and thoughts pop into her head. She’s determined not to let stuff float around in her head and bug her.

Relaxed, and feeling good, Melissa wraps up the week and begins again the following Friday when she’ll meet with herself for her next Weekly Review and begins her planning process again.

The end.

Hopefully Melissa’s story got your wheels turning about how you might put a similar planning system into place for the coming school year.

Have any follow-up questions? Want to talk details? Ask them in the comments below – click on the post title, scroll down, leave a comment/question in the box, submit! – Then I reply :)

And if you’d like to get your hands on Melissa’s weekly planning tool, make sure to check out the Time & ToDo Planner.

Enjoy these last few weeks of sweet summer, and I’ll talk to you soon!