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Digital Learning

Open Letter to a Retired Teacher

Dear retired teacher,

You've been thinking, dreaming even, about this for years. Now that the days of your final school year as a teacher are dwindling, you're not so sure. As you pass your colleagues in the hall or sit with them for a few minutes at lunch time in the lounge, everyone reminds you how jealous they are of you. Some ask you why, and even gasp very effectively when you remind them of your chronological age and the number of years you have served your profession. It's time. But how could it be? You are just not ready to believe it. If they think you look too young to retire now, just tell them to wait a year. Girl, you will look fabulous when the stresses of daily teaching are erased from your face! You will glow!

You've given some thought to your interests and how you'd like to spend your time in retirement. You've had no choice about that. People will ask you that question over and over. No answers? They will tell you what you should try. Have you been to Paris? Ever try skydiving? Hawaii? Scuba? Why not take up painting? Train for a marathon. Sit on a beach and drink something. Things each of them longs to have time for someday. But maybe you've been longing for something else.

You will have to be the one who decides how you will spend your retirement years. You. No one can decide that for you. You have just left a profession in which the wiggle room got slashed a little more with each new directive, standard, and shift in government. 99% of your job was pre decided for you. Your schedule was pretty rigid. You couldn't take off on an impulsive scuba diving jaunt if you wanted to. Heck, I'll bet you couldn't even take an unplanned jaunt to the rest room, no matter how loudly nature was calling! 7:45 staff meeting, kids arrive at 8:16. (Really. Not 8:15.; Not 8:20. 8:16. You can't make this stuff up.) From there, you teach math first because your whole grade level (or even school) teaches math first for exactly sixty minutes. Next, ELA for exactly 43 minutes, so it fits around the ridiculous lunch schedule, and so on. And now, you are about to be the author of your own schedule. How to decide?

This is the hard part...

You finally have time to do what you want when you want. You can even spend that time with whoever you would like to include in this new life of yours. That would be a fairly easy transition if teaching had been just a job. I'm guessing that it was way more than that to you, and those memories, most of your colleagues,  and those kids are forever alive in your heart. You will probably always be able to call them up, have a laugh, or shed a small tear, and then get on with your day.

The memories live inside you. You will have to learn how to override them. It takes a little time. You may find yourself sleeping a little later that first year out, maybe even letting the sun wake you. Don't be surprised if you panic a little because you have totally slept through morning meeting! Oh wait, you don't do that anymore! I have even found myself in an early morning yoga class on the first day of school, hoping they'd at least give us a little time to work in our rooms. Breathe. Redirect your thoughts. Be free! Free to think about whatever you'd like, or nothing at all.

At first, you may have to make yourself think of other things to do. Plan a breakfast meet up with some other retired or work at home friends for the first day of school. Plan a vacation for the beginning of the year. (I've found the start of school to be the hardest time. Need to practice deep breathing and refocusing when the back to school ads start in Target, Staples, and Office Max.) Drive to a beach or nature trail and refocus. Stay away from the mall for a couple of weeks.

Volunteering in the schools is another great way to spend some of your time. No more than 20%. I think beyond 20%, it feels like work. Being with kids is rejuvenating and happiness inducing! Get back in there. What teacher doesn't need an extra pair of hands? What kid doesn't love to have another audience to read to or a cheerleader for their efforts at whatever is hard that day? Win-win-win!

Take some time for yourself. Read whatever you'd like, whenever you'd like. My new favorite author is Dorothea Benton Frank. Finished all of Elin Hilderbrand. Beach reads. Finish a book, plan a trip to see the settings that inspired it. Just got back from exploring Charleston, SC and Sullivan's Island because Dotty Frank brought the lowcountry to life for me, and because I could. Still planning to read the latest Heinemann release and Fish in a Tree? Of course, but when I feel like it!

Clean your closets. Give stuff away. You don't have to save so much anymore because you might need it for a lesson someday. You won't.

Stay in touch with your students and their parents. (You can choose which ones, or let them choose you!) Facebook is great for that! Tuning into their celebrations and stresses over events and obstacles you've experienced before will keep you young, and also make you very glad to have reached the stage of life where you find yourself now.

What you'll remember...

I hope you'll always remember the successes and the happiness your career brought to so many over the years. If you keep in touch with former students, they will remind you of some of those things. It's an incredible feeling to see so many of them grown and building wonderful lives beyond your classroom. If your classroom and you had not been there for them, who knows? Always remember that you made a difference.

And now, this is your time! Get out there and have  the best retirement ever - one tailored just for you! Make it up as you go along - no lesson plan required, and no evaluation by anyone other than you! You've got this!

This post is linked with posts from teachers at every stage of their careers!
Click on any of the links below to visit the blog post about each of these other teachers. Chances are you'll be in one of these shoes sooner than you realize!
 An Open Letter to a New Teacher
  An Open Letter to the Teacher in the Prime of her Career
  An Open Letter to a Teacher in a Rut
  An Open Letter to a Teacher Toward the End  
Open Letter to the Retired Teacher

A Portfolio to Remember

Super excited to announce that this post has been selected to appear on the TpT Blog! See it here!

The school year is almost over. Most of us are still testing, and it seems as if that's all we've done all year long: prep for the test and then test some more. Yet, we are longing for something beautiful that our students can take away from this year, and have sweet memories whenever they gaze upon it. My guess is that they won't be gazing upon those test score printouts with too many fond memories, even if the scores are high.

Why not try creating a Keepsake Portfolio? You still have time to create something beautiful to hold some precious moments from this one special year! Here are answers to some questions you may have:

Mine the writing pieces that your students have already done. Your students have been writing all year! Maybe you have used daily journals, weekly reflections, or interactive notebooks. Time to mine those collections for keepsake-worthy pieces! Use some of your ELA time to have students go through their notebooks and folders for pieces they have written that they are especially proud of, or that would benefit from a rewrite for publishing. 

Students can literally tear those pages right out of their notebooks and save in a folder for their keepsake portfolios, or they can dog ear the corners or mark special pages with sticky notes. Many parents simply dispose of all those interactive notebooks at the end of the school year anyway, so why not just tear out some pages to improve on?


Edit and rewrite (or type) the pieces on pre-decorated paper (ask for donations from parents and office supply stores). Students may also decorate the pages themselves. These turn out really beautiful! 
You may also want to have students reflect on each of the pieces and add that reflection to the page facing the piece. 

Some possible prompts for reflection:
I used to think, but now I know (or think)....
I chose this piece because...
This piece reminds me....
This is an example of how I...

Absolutely! April was Poetry Month! Include any poems that your students might have written during a poetry unit. Write some new poems about Spring or about your school year. Acrostics are easy and quick. Students love them! Why not write an acrostic about each season, using school year events as the focus?
Add some other poems that can easily be written following templates, such as haiku, diamante, and cinquain.

Add a drawing or diagram to accompany each writing piece.

Add a letter to "Your 4th grade Self" (or whichever grade you are in this year), written as an adult looking back. Include predictions in the letter about the person who is writing (career, family, thoughts on how 4th grade influenced the person he/she has become).

Add a letter to your self from the beginning of the year about how the year has been. 

If you have pictures from field trips, assemblies, etc., print them out for students to include in their keepsake portfolios, and they can write short pieces about those pictures. 

Students can add an "About the Author" page with biographical information.

A Table of Contents and a dedication page are two other pages that my students always enjoy adding.

Reflecting on the work done in academic and special subject areas also make nice additions to this portfolio. Pieces such as "The hardest math problem I solved this year was...", "My favorite art project this year was...",  "My best day in gym class was.." , "My favorite song learned in music class was..."

A page where classmates can write a sentence about what they liked best about sharing the year with each of the other students is also a fun addition.

It can be as simple or elaborate as you have the time, resources, and preference for. 

You can ask for donations of pizza boxes from a local pizzeria or restaurant. Students can decorate the boxes and then mount their writing pieces on scrapbook paper or construction paper cut to fit inside the box.

Using the same "mount on scrapbook or construction paper" plan, simply make a cover page,  punch holes, and string together with ribbon. If you have a binding machine in your building, you can bind the book that way. Notebook rings or plastic "ring-its" can also be used to hold the pages together.

"Bare Books" (available from Treetop Publishing) make a beautiful presentation. Students can decorate the covers with markers, crayons, or colored pencils, For the ultimate presentation, you can include a life-cast face mask or hand mask to personalize the cover. Attach with a hot glue gun. 

Glitter, ribbons, sequins, and star wire also add beautiful finishing touches to any of the above suggestions!  For directions on how to make the Mask Book, check out this post!

These are a few examples of the ultimate presentation: THE MASK BOOK!

Invite parents to a presentation and display!

We served cookies and lemonade each year, and invited parents to celebrate our collections with us!

For ending this year, you may want to start small, and then start the new school year off with a plan to have exactly the collection you would like at the end. You could simple mine those journals and notebooks and collect some things to rewrite and pretty up. Have your students make a cover and bind them simply with rings or ribbons.

For next year, plan a more extravagant keepsake portfolio. I'll be offering suggestions for organizing the process and creating the life cast masks in future blog posts. I hope you'll join me at Rainbow City Learning for step by step instructions on how to create the mask books.

For easy-peasy, print and go pages to include for each month of the school year, click below:

For more ideas, you can visit my TpT store, my Facebook page,  
or take a look at my Pinterest boards.

For more great ideas for May, be sure to visit these "Teacher Talk" pages!


What's on Your Wishlist?

Teachers, it's time for a huge celebration! Teachers Pay Teachers is ten years old, and we are celebrating teachers in a big way! Our sitewide sale starts at midnight EST on May 3, and ends at midnight EST on May 5. Rainbow City Learning will be offering every resource, including huge already discounted bundles, at a savings of 20%! To save even more, add the code CELEBRATE when you check out!
The resources listed below are some of my most popular, and the ones with the highest number of wishlist saves. Take a look at what other teachers are saying about each of these classroom tested and kid-approved resources, all designed to make your teaching day easier, more relevant and fun, on right on target for meeting the standards! Be sure to enter my giveaway at the end of this post to win a $20.00 TpT gift certificate, just to add to the fun of this major shopping event. Fill your cart now and checkout when the sale begins! 
Happy Shopping!

The most frequently wish listed and all-time best-selling resource in Rainbow City Learning is MATH CLOSE READS. I created this resource to help my own students who were flying through the standardized math tests without paying attention to the story problems. The graphic organizers I designed helped my students to slow down and read the problems more closely. 
With frequent close reading of problems in class and as homework, students will develop the habit of looking for data, questions, and extra information as they are tested on their ability to solve story problems correctly. 
I've also been told that this resource is a great tutoring and differentiation tool! Don't pass up the opportunity to save on this popular resource!
The second most popular wishlist item is my ROCK STAR STUDENTS reward card system. Who doesn't like to hear, "YOU ROCK!"? And what if that statement could be connected  to important behavioral goals such as Responsibility, Ownership of work and behaviors, Cooperation, and more? Easy to use and meaningful for students!The third most wishlisted item is my huge MAKER SPACE bundle! Already discounted, you can save even more by snapping this one up during the sale! If you've been thinking about getting a Maker Space started in your classroom or school, this kit contains all you will need to begin while looking like you've been doing this for years!

To return to the wishlist linky, just click below!