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Digital Learning

Gifts of the New Year

Now that "the holidays" are over, the decorations are packed away, and the ribbons, bows, tinsel, and paper have been disposed of,  many of us think that the huge whoosh of gifting is over. I disagree!

January is the perfect time to gift yourself! Here are some gifts that I hope you will lavish upon yourselves during the often cloudy, gray, and chilling days of January:

The Gift of Time

The really busy time between Thanksgiving and New Years is behind us now. Give yourself some much-needed "me" time. Take some time to read a book just for you, work on a hobby you love, or just a few quiet moments when you can be alone with your thoughts. What? You have small children at home who need to be with you every second? If they are walking, try a little yoga with them. Teach them (along with yourself perhaps!) to just breathe. When you need to be alone with your thoughts, simply go into a room alone, sit on the floor cross-legged (criss cross applesauce!) close your eyes and let your family know that you are meditating. Just for a few minutes. They will get used to it and leave you alone. That has always been my favorite thing to do after a hectic day at school. 
If you don't already practice yoga, these posters might be helpful when you share the practice with your kids:

The Gift of Friendship

When was the last time you got together with a friend or two, or with a small group of friends? If it was during the holiday season, good for you! If not, why not text a friend or two and plan a get together? It can be just for a short time or a full evening out, whatever you can manage. It will fill your soul!

Here's one way to get some friend time: My friend and I schedule our mammograms together every year. We make an early morning appointment, go out for brunch at a nice restaurant, go to whatever movie is playing at our favorite theater with reclining seats, and then go shopping! We had so much fun this year that others want to join us for next year's outing. Being with your friends just might save your life! For me, it turned a dreaded annual procedure into a day of fun!

The Gift of Sharing

I recently found a way to finally pare down my closet. (Okay, closets. Giant ones.) It's been a struggle for a long time because I truly love almost every single article of clothing I own. When I ask myself the Marie Kondo question of "Does it bring you joy?" I usually say YES and throw it on the keep pile. But really, who needs ALL OF IT? I spend one day in the classroom currently, and the rest working from home. What do I typically wear? Yoga pants, T-shirt, sweater. Right?

I found a friend at school, still working full-time, and two family members who wear my sizes, and suddenly the joy question has taken on a new meaning. Now I have bags labelled with their names, and it brings me so much joy to pick out clothes and shoes and boots and scarves that I know each of them will love. My once loved things will have a new life being loved all over again instead of lingering as clutter while I reach for those yoga pants yet again! I love, love, love seeing my friend and relatives looking beautiful in their "new" clothes!

Try it! If you don't have a friend or family member who would like to add to their wardrobe, find a shelter or church who would like to find someone to love your clothes and share! You will never be able to wear it all!

To share the "life changing magic" of clearing out the clutter with your students, you might be interested in this:

The Gift of Laughter

Remember to laugh every day! Some of the things that annoy us the most during any typical day can actually be quite funny when you look back on them. Take a moment when something crazy interrupts your day. Step back and try to look at it through a lens of humor.

That kid who seems to be off-task? Observe for a few minutes and think about where his/her mind has traveled. When you have a moment alone, ask what they were thinking about. The answer will probably make you laugh, and it can be a good opportunity for bonding.

Your principal who pops in unexpectedly to observe you? Maybe he's wearing a ridiculous looking tie or shoes. Maybe she has part of her hair sticking up or her sweater inside out. (If not, just imagine it!) Think of something funny to make you smile. I guarantee you will sail through that lesson with a smile on your face much easier than with a worried frown! A funny example of this for me was when my principal had dropped in to watch a science lesson. He was explaining his interpretation of the standard to a student. She quickly corrected him, and proceeded to explain herself what the standard actually meant. The expression on his face was priceless and definitely made me smile then, and later as we discussed the lesson for my evaluation.

Just one more  - I think Laughter is my favorite box to open - I recently came across a book. (I Went to Vassar...For This?)   Haven't read it yet, but the main character has an issue with her microwave and finds herself back in time living in the 1950s. That could be very funny, I think! (Book Club after we all read it? )
So the next time I burn something, forget to thaw something, or have some similar mishap in the classroom, I will imagine myself trying to do the same thing in another era. My finicky Smart Board often made me think I had been transported to the at least the 70s or 80s! When it was choosing to only function as a white board, I referred to it as the "Dumb Board". Kids and I all had a good laugh at that!
Laughing makes you feel great!

To at least smile all the way through your teacher evaluations this year, be sure to check out this highly rated organizational tool:

For more ideas on how to have the best January ever, in and out of the classroom, be sure to check out these great posts by the Teacher Talk bloggers!


  1. Retta, I love these gifts!! You always have the best reminders about the more important things to teach our kids, other than curriculum! Wonderful post!!

  2. Thank you for the wonderful reminders and great tips for students cleaning out desks!

  3. Lovely gift ideas! Yoga is one of those incredible valuable tools, I love your ideas for using it with older elementary kids.

  4. Retta, I needed to read this today! It is so important to re-focus on the important things in life. And what a funny, great idea to schedule your annual mammogram with a friend and make a day of it! Brunch makes everything better, don't you think? Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you for all the gifts, Retta. Reminders are oftentimes the greatest gift of all.

  6. Retta, such great tips, I especially like the one about making a day of it for mammograms with your friends. Love your blogs.