Sunday, October 27, 2019

10 ways to treat yourself on a budget

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting

Educators have the best but hardest job in the world. There are times when we need to treat ourselves, especially when we've had a rough day or week of emotionally charged situations, never-ending paperwork, a to-do list that is ever-growing, and email that keeps multiplying. 

I've found that there are many ways that I can relax and recharge during my down time, and I've also realized as I've gotten older just how important it is to treat ourselves. We need to honor our needs and recharge so that we can keep giving to others in our daily work. 

With two daughters in college and a husband who works on commission, money is tight some most of the time, and we live by a budget. We plan our weekly menu and shopping trips and we're frugal about our choices for entertainment and other household expenses. 

I've assembled a list of 10 ways to treat yourself on a budget. So if you find yourself with more month than money, I hope you'll try the ideas on this list.


There's nothing like getting lost in a good book! Our school librarians are a wealth of knowledge about so many different genres, and they are experts when it comes to pairing up a person to a book. Try talking to your school or city librarian about your interests and they can help you find your next new favorite read! 

2. GO FOR A WALK (or run)

Walking is a simple and FREE way to improve your mental, emotional, and physical health. Even small amounts each day add up to short-term and long-term benefits. 


Chesapeake Bay Candle co-founder Mei Xu says, “With the rise of the new technologies our lives have become super organized. But we are not happier. We need to slow down and find time for ourselves. I wanted to design a home fragrance collection that helps people to achieve a state of balance and peace inside, so they can share their joy and energy with others."

One of my favorite candles is the "balance + harmony" candle by Chesapeake Bay. It's made from a natural soy wax blend and burns for about 50 hours. 


"We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with." Keeping that quote in mind, choose podcasts that are uplifting, encouraging, and positive. You may choose ones that are funny or intriguing... something to "lose" yourself and the worries from the day. 

My favorite uplifting, non-educational podcast for when I want to take a mental break from school life is Glambition Radio hosted by Ali Brown. I've been a huge fan of Ali's for a long time, and she interviews some really smart and talented women on her podcast. 

Related post Turn your car into a mobile university


In a world filled with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, it can be easy to get caught up in what others are doing. When we TREAT ourselves, we need to focus on ourselves and our well-being. It may be that you "declare" to disconnect from social media after a certain time of the day, or maybe you decide to be offline on certain days. Those are the days and times when we can and need to connect to those who are in our physical lives.


Most cities publish an event calendar online, and lots of times there are free events for the public. These would be great for "Date Nights" or just for getting together with friends. I checked the one for our city, and found that upcoming free events include a yoga class, a speedreading class, an apple spirits tasting, and several workshops hosted by our local university. 


"When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres, says psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. 'The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.' In simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries."   Source


Writing in a journal is a way to bring stress relief. It's a good way to problem-solve, and to get feelings out around a specific situation or topic. A Gratitude Journal allows you to focus on resources that you do have and create a record of positive events that have occurred throughout your days. You can write in a simple notebook, or try one from Annie's Notebooks


I had heard of the book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, when it was published a few years ago, but I never read it. Then, I watched the Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and I was hooked. 

I think the article from Good Housekeeping sums up Marie Kondo's decluttering method nicely:
     Because you're actively choosing items that spark joy, and discarding what doesn't, the intention of the KonMari method is to end up with a clutter-free home that is better able to bring more joy and prosperity to your life. While tidying, she encourages you to visualize the life you want to live — to be less stressed, for example — and what you need to get there. Anything that won't help on that journey isn't deserving of your space or you, she says.


Not only can a mid-day nap reboot our minds and spirits, a new study shows that it may lower blood pressure. When you're feeling overly stressed, try catching a 15-20 minute nap to treat yourself!

Do you have a favorite way to treat yourself on a budget? Feel free to share in the comments below! 

Related post 20 ways to take care of yourself over the holidays

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

The easiest way to plan for social media posts

I read somewhere that 72% of parents are on social media. As an educator, I find that to be an incredible statistic and one that I want to use as I build trust, highlight our staff and students, and reinforce our school values and beliefs. 

Social media platforms are a terrific way to tell our schools' stories as we share the wonderful things that are happening in our four walls each day. 

I recently updated my downloadable workbook, How to Tell Your School's Story on Twitter, so I wanted to share a few tips in this post and provide a FREE post planner below for you to use as you start or continue your adventure in creating a positive brand for your school.

Where to start?

With so many social media platforms, it can be hard to decide where to start. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter... with so many platforms, it can be tempting to try to tell your school's story across all of them. Choose one and run with it. If you choose twitter, I encourage you to check out my workbook because it has step-by-step plans for how to get started, what and when to tweet, and how to create the necessary school hashtag. 

How often should I post?

At our school, I have two students who help me with social media posts. Our weekly goal is at least 7-10 non-athletic posts. (We do share posts about athletics each week, and we re-post the athletic posts from our athletic director each week.) 

The FREE Post Planner has two parts. The first page helps you with the "big picture." On it, you can note events, holidays, and other happenings in your school during a specific month. On the second page, you can make a note of the tweet for each school day during the month. 

You can share the pages with your administrative team, office staff, social media team, or other staff members and get input on what's happening across the school. If you have a central location for your staff such as a professional learning room, mail room, or teachers' lounge where you could duplicate the pages as whiteboards or bulletin boards, you could ask staff members to post to the boards as something comes up. 

A scheduling tool like Tweetdeck can be a huge help in celebrating and highlighting events and people throughout the month. 

Video as a storytelling tool

While you're planning your month of social media posts, plan for some of the posts to be videos. 

Got a guest speaker coming? How about a behind-the-scenes video as the parent-teacher organization sets up a fall carnival? What about the pep rally against your school's biggest rival? 

You can give voice to students and teachers, and showcase innovative practices in your building. 

**If you take a few short clips, you can choose which ones to use.

As you share the awesome work of your staff and students in your school, you can find more ideas and tips in my digital workbook. It's an instant download, and it's got reproducible worksheets for you to share with your teams.

I would love for you to tag me in a post about your school so I, too, can celebrate the work that's happening in your school! You can find me on twitter at @Jennifer_Hogan.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Treat your manager like a coach (Interview with Facebook VP and author, Julie Zhuo)

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting

I today's post, you will get to read an excerpt from a podcast interview by Jenny Blake. On her PIVOT podcast, she interviewed Julie Zhuo, the VP of Product Design at Facebook and bestselling author of The Making of a Manager

I struggled with the title for this post. At first I thought about this... "Hey, new teachers - your principal is a coach not a judge." That led me to, "Hey, new principals - your superintendent is a coach not a judge."

Then it got real

Most leaders/managers (the good ones!) DO want to be coaches and not just judges. 

I understand that this may not be the case everywhere. 

What I do want to say is that if you are a leader/manager, the only thing you can control is you, and you can be that person who COACHES those who are on your team. 

AND, while we're on the subject of controlling what you can control, we can control how we treat our managers. 

So unless you KNOW that your leader/manager doesn't want you to be the best and that they don't want to be good leaders, let's take Jenny's advice to heart.

"The job of a manager is to be sure that the team has what it needs to be successful." 
- Julie Zhuo

This message is something that I want to share with our new teachers. I was visiting a classroom the other day, and the teacher (new to our school this year), got very nervous and even admitted it to his students while I was in the room.

When we meet this week, I will assure him that I see my role as one to support him and make sure he has what he needs to be successful. I'll also make certain that the other new teachers understand that I'm there to push their thinking, share feedback, and help them to be their very best. 

I would love to hear your thoughts about the excerpt below (from Jenny's podcast interview of Julie Zhou.) Does it speak to you? Can you relate? 

"You go through life, you go to school, you have this idea that your teachers and these people in positions of authority are often handing out judgments. You go and take a test and then you get an A, a B, a C... you get something that tells you, Was my work good enough?
And so, I think it's actually quite common. I know I certainly went into the workplace where I'm like, 'My manager is like that teacher, where they look at what I'm doing and they tell me if I get an A, or a B, or a C. And if I'm failing they fire me and if I get lots of A's then they promote me.' And that's the relationship, right?
So, I need to impress this person. I need to make sure that this person thinks I'm awesome all the time. If I'm really strugling, then maybe I shouldn't tell this person becuase then they might judge me to be less capable and I'm going to get a worse grade. 
I realized over time, especially as I also became a manager, that that is not the most productive way to view that relationship. In fact, if you think about it much more like a coach, your coach's job is to just help you be better or do your best, to give you feedback, and to push you with the goal of helping you achieve your best performance.  
That's a very different mentality than someone who's just judging you.
When you have that mentality of your manager as a coach, then you change a lot of your behaviors. Because the person you believe has your back and you believe is just helping you do your best... you want to tell them what your problems are. You want to talk to them openly about your hopes and dreams. You want to admit to them, 'Hey, this is something that's hard for me. Can we work on it together? Can you help me overcome this problem?' " 
You can read the show notes and listen to the full episode HERE.

Click HERE to order Julie's book from Amazon

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Monday, October 14, 2019

5 Canva hacks you need to know

Canva is an awesome resource for bloggers, teachers, and those of us who love to create our own graphics. I've got 5 hacks for you to save time and make your job easier. (Because we all need more time, right?!)


You can easily bring up a text box on your design by using this keyboard shortcut. It's my favorite shortcut to share with you! 

Simply hit the "T" on the keyboard, and a text box will appear in your design. How easy is that??


This is another keyboard shortcut that allows you to duplicate a photo, graphic, or text in your design.

Once you place the text, graphic, or image in your design and size it to the desired size, make sure that it's selected (with a box around it.)  Simply press the "Alt" key and hold it down. While holding it down, use your mouse to drag a copy of the image/text/graphic where you need it. 


Need to move an element just a smidge and can't get it right by moving it with the mouse? This hack's for you!

Highlight the element, then use your arrow keys to move the element 1 pixel in all directions to get it to the location you need it. Want to move it left or right by 10 pixels? Hold down the Shift key and then use your left and/or right arrow keys to move it. 


Want to work on a design while it's large and see what it will look like when it's smaller (like on a mobile device)?

You can use Ctrl and the + key to zoom in. Use the Ctrl and the - key to zoom out. Easy peasy!


Did you know there's a secret code to bring up Canva's free elements? (Yes! I promise!)

Type this in the search box: "brand:BAAAAP7rQ8M". 
You can also type the secret code in the box, then type in a specific feature you're looking for (for example, if you're looking for squares, you can type "brand:BAAAAP7rQ8M square" in the search box and it will return the free square shapes for you.)

Now that you know the shortcuts, try them out and let me know how they work for you!

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

20 Powerful Classroom Community Building Ideas

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting

To all the jeep drivers out there...

Powerful Community Building Ideas

Do you do this when you pass another jeep on the road?

When my husband first started driving his Jeep, he noticed that other drivers would wave or lift a couple of fingers as they passed him. He looked it up online and found that it’s a “thing” for drivers in jeeps to acknowledge each other when they pass on the road. He also found forums and thriving community devoted to Jeep owners. He was excited to be a part of this new group, and he always looks for other Jeeps on the road so that he can acknowledge them.

His reaction was a reminder to me that people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. As educators, it’s important for us to create an environment where students and staff feel connected, important, and valued. 

In today’s post, I’ve gathered up 20 powerful community building ideas to share with you. Feel free to leave a comment and share yours!

In an article by Edutopia, they share 10 strategies and some of them take less than 5 minutes to do. Below, I’m sharing 3 from the article, one for each at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Friendly Fridays

Elizabeth Peterson is a fourth grade teacher who created “Friendly Fridays” as a way for her students to lift each other up. “Peterson has her students write a friendly, anonymous note to a classmate, practice using positive self-talk, or use storytelling to give a peer a pep talk.”

Group Salutes

At the beginning or ending of class or an activity, this teacher-led activity is a quick way to build community. “The shared gesture can be physical—like a high five—or social—a teacher could ask students to express gratitude to their group members.”

Don’t think this is a powerful enough strategy? The NBA did some research on their teams and how many times the players touch each other early in the season - high fives, fist bumps, etc. The ones who did the most touching early in the season had the best records as the season progressed.

Rose and Thorn Check-in 

While it may seem that high school students don’t need “morning meetings,” the Rose and Thorn check-in is a quick way for teachers to gauge students’ moods, promote empathy, and understand that every voice matters.

How it works: At the beginning of class, the teacher and students share something positive (rose) and something negative (thorn). Students are allowed to “pass” on their turn, but every student is given the opportunity to be heard every day.

“When teachers deliberately foster a sense of belonging by greeting each student at the door of the class, they see ‘significant improvements in academic engaged time and reductions in disruptive behavior.’”  

Collaborative Classroom Norms and Expectations

Susan Norris, a Hoover High teacher, facilitates students in her classroom as they create class expectations and norms. 

By doing this, she encourages student voice and increases ownership of the expectations by the students.

Send a Welcome Letter 

Even before students step foot in the classroom, teachers can start to build community by making students feel welcome and reduce fears by letting them know what to expect in the classroom. (You can read about 7 more community-building strategies in the article on

Class Read-Alouds

There are a lot of books that can be used to build community in a classroom. There are two that I am recommending to be used for a read-aloud at ANY level. Yes, you read that right. Even at the high school level, a children's book can be a wonderful resource to build a culture of kindness. 


My friend Jeff Kubiak wrote One Drop of Kindness. The story is about Gus, a one-time orphan, who believes that the only way to communicate is through hurtful words and actions. The town Gus lives in has a secret - and unlocking it, a ripple effect of kindness is felt throughout the town. 


The Invisible Boy is another story that can help to create a shared experience and a foundation for a sense of community in the classroom. The book is about a quiet student named Brian, who feels invisible at school until a new boy, Justin, "sees" Brian. From then on, Brian starts to feel less invisible and the other students begin to notice. It's a story about friendship, belonging, and the power of being "seen."

Here are some conversation starters and/or writing prompts:
  • What responsibility do we have to each other?
  • What actions can we do to help others feel like part of a community?
  • How can you reach out if you are hurting?

From the links and ideas above, you can find 20 ideas for building community in the classroom. What do you do at your school and/or in your classroom? I would love to hear from you in the comments below or reach out to me on twitter

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