Let me start by saying that I owe my friend Rebecca a nice big bloggy write-up because in the midst of my computer fiasco, I was unable to participate in the Product Swap last week. Okay, and first of all, if you don't follow Darlin' in First, you MUST! Rebecca is a fabulous teacher, and she makes adorable and creative products! I have also had the pleasure of meeting her in real life, and she is quite possibly one of the cutest and sweetest people in the whole world. For real. :) Anyway, we paired up for the product swap, and I was very fortunate to be able to review "The Case of the Mystery 100th Day Bottle" project. It is just way too cute for words! I am actually pretty excited about using this packet with my kiddos this year, because I think it's another great way to integrate drawing conclusions in a really tangible way to (once again) tie it back into what we do as readers. ! Let's check it out, shall we?
The packet comes with lots of printables to get the project off of the ground. They come in color or black and white. :) I chose color, because it's just so much prettier, but considering that I have 56 kiddos, I will most likely use black and white with them! Here's a shot of some of the contents. I realized now that I forgot to print the parent letter, but it is super detailed and cute. :) It explains the purpose of the activity and includes instructions to help the parents assist their kiddos as they put their 100th Day bottles together. The project is intended to be completed at home.
The following photo is a close-up of the mystery bottle and the bag. Essentially, the kiddos fill their bottles with 100 beads or pebbles or whatever, and then they use the printables from this packet to decorate their bottles and bags. All of the materials needed (except for the bottles) are sent home with the kiddos when the parent letter goes home. I added ribbon, because I LOVED the way Rebecca added ribbon to her version, but it's totally optional, of course! :) ( NOTE: I used a small bottle, because that's what I had on hand!)
I read that Rebecca sends envelopes home with her kiddos and has them slip their clues inside. Then they attach a label to the outside. (She also includes photos in the file to show you how she organized the materials.) I decided to give this component a little bit of a spin. Instead of using an envelope, I glued the three clues to a regular-sized piece of construction paper, spacing them evenly. Then I cut the paper into thirds. I used a different color for the cover, and I attached the label to the front of it. I also cut a blank piece of paper to use as the backing. Next, I stapled the strips together, hot-glued ribbon down the side to cover the staples, and glued an additional ribbon to the top to tie it all together with the adorable bag and the bottle!
To make a long story short, I LOVE this resource, and I will definitely be using it with my kiddos this year. :) It's just precious!
NOTE: This product was recently removed, so it is no longer available! Sorry if you missed it!
In other news, I have been trying to finish my Valentine's Day centers. I started them before Christmas, and then I pretty much spent two weeks fighting the flu and sleeping, so they took a back seat. Then school started, and they took a back seat again, because it was time for benchmarks and report cards and my computer crashed. Now I am finally in a good place to resume working on them. Thank goodness! My kiddos are already asking, "Did you make any new centers yet?" and "Are you making new centers for Valentine's Day too?" Seriously, they keep me busy! :) I am so happy they enjoy the activities though, and for that reason, I'll keep chugging along! Here's your proof that it's coming your way soon-ish.
Now that I've gotten all of that off of the plate, I want to get back to the meat of this post. :) Keeping it all in perspective is sometimes hard to do. I know that I am my own worst enemy, and I struggle to keep my Type A tendencies in line. I fuss over details, and I sometimes work myself up way too much about things. This blog has, at times, become one of those things.
I've been blogging on this site for two and a half years, and I used to contribute to a collaborative blog and run a pretty elaborate classroom website before that. I don't consider myself an expert, but I feel like I've gone through my own peaks and valleys when it comes to the whole blogging song and dance, so with all of the recent posts to newbies about dos and don'ts and everything in between, I figured I would offer my own nuggets of wisdom to all of the new bloggers and sellers out there.
First of all, I started blogging to share ideas and learn from others. This remains my goal, first and foremost. I would be lying if I said that TpT hasn't been a huge BLESSING, but that's not why I started this journey. I started this journey to share what I am doing in my classroom, to share the resources I have created for my kiddos, and to keep up on what others are doing. It's not about having the most followers, making the most money, or having everybody know your name. It's not a competition. It's not a life and death situation. Blogging should be FUN... and you should write for yourself. When you worry too much about what your "audience" wants, sometimes it's easy to lose yourself in the process. I think the same thing can be said for products. If you are making things simply for the sake of making some moolah, are you making them for the right reasons? Do they jive with your own educational philosophy, or are you just selling them because you saw something similar on the Top 100 list? I think we all have to be careful not to get caught up in the rat race. I sometimes get discouraged, but personally, I would rather see myself fall down that list than sacrifice my own principles and ethics. Hands-down. :) I also realize that there's much more to life than that.
Secondly, I try to be cautious. I am very careful not to cross any lines with my blog or my store. I will not sell anything that is associated with my school's curriculum out of respect for my administration. I don't want any gray areas to develop. The same can be said about other sellers' products. I think we all need to be cognizant of the fact that we should not be making money off of the backs of other people or other programs.
Lastly, I also try not to let blogging consume my life. Honestly, it's hard not to get caught up in everything, and I admit that I spend a lot of time on school stuff, but if you are going to be happy, healthy, and balanced, you need to find some time away from the computer too. My work-friend Jenny recently asked me, "Do you sleep like 40 minutes a day? How do you get everything done?" The answer is... you know what? I don't always get everything done, but I never lose sleep over it, because it will eventually get done, just maybe not that day. As neurotic and Type A as I can be, I never stay up late to work. I am always in bed by at least 10:30, and I actually require a LOT of sleep to operate! Ha! So, when I am awake, I really work hard to manage my time wisely and prioritize tasks because I can't do it all, nor would I ever want to. I try to focus and get my work done without distractions so that I can enjoy life outside of teaching too. Lately, I've really enjoyed spending extra time with Mr. Wonderful and decorating our home one detail at a time. I've also been working on some professional development pieces for teachers in my area, which is a nice change of pace for me too, even though it's still teaching-related. :)
For me, any time I start to beat myself up for not blogging enough or not making enough products, I just think about the fact that I also have a home and a husband and a dog. I also have a life. It's great to be passionate about your job, but it's healthy to have other passions too. For me, I'm going through a season of my life where I am shifting gears. I am realizing that if I keep the pace I've been running for the past seven years, I am going to burn out before I even get CLOSE to retirement! I don't want to look back on my life and feel like I've missed out on anything because I was too busy working. I want to act silly with my husband. I want cook amazing dinners... and travel... and sometimes... I just want to relax. Since I'm turning 29 this year, I'm also starting to think more about starting a family in the next few years. Of course, in addition, I want to shop for bargains and immerse myself in my other love... home decorating.
Recently, I fell in love with drapes, and I lucked out because they were on sale! Score! So, I spent the evening hanging them with my hubs and goofing off by the fireplace.
Another day, I found three cute little mirrors on-the-cheap at Marshalls, and then I went on a little trip to a hardware store with the hubs to hang them with drawer pulls.
Just like the sunset I mentioned earlier in this post, it's about the little things. It's about the beauty that is all around us... the beauty that you can sometimes miss if you're too busy working. Don't miss it, friends! ;) Have a good weekend!