Tag Archives: organization

Don’t miss the party! (And other cleaning tips)

I’m messy.

This is my car:


This is my bedroom:


And they are a mess.

I’m not cherry picking photos, either, to find the worst one to make my point. These were all taken today.

At a party with some friends a few months ago, I told my college roommates that I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I am messy.

My roommates felt vindicated. They had often bemoaned the fact that despite indicating on the freshman roommate preference cards they would like to room with someone neat, they instead got to room with me. I had also indicated that I would like to room with someone neat. Because I would. It’s not like I revel in filth. I just enjoy a lot of other things more than I enjoy tidying.

how i clean

I have spent a lot of time trying to make up for being messy. I go on clean/messy binges, I act really nicely toward my roommates when they look at me with disapproval, I’ve read self-help books about the whole messiness thing. (KonMari anyone?)

Therefore it was typical, but ill-advised, when I clicked on the video that promised a strategy for how to clean your bedroom in 30 minutes. But who can even blame me? It promised a free printable check list.

Watching the video sent me into a tailspin of inadequacy and shame, one of my typical responses. Another typical response is to go to Target and buy as many cleaning supplies as I can, returning home too exhausted to clean. Because shopping is a lot of work.

Let me pause here to say that I don’t dislike neat people. Well, maybe I resent them a little. But only because of my own deficiencies, not because of their amazingness. I look at their seemingly effortless systems of boxes and organization and sigh and fantasize…

About hiring a cleaning person. Because seriously, I don’t want to do it.

Anyway, as I was cleaning for a party or maybe just cleaning my car (turns out I do actually clean, it just never comes together all at once in a way that gives the appearance of “togetherness”), I remembered a story from another party, one that happened shortly after I graduated from college, a time when my life was messy in about every conceivable way.

The party was for my college bff and her husband, who were headed to West Africa to join the Peace Corps. In all the laughing and talking and joy and sorrow of saying goodbye, at some point someone asked if they could get a ride back to their apartment at the end of the party.

For all you neat people reading this, I’m sure there is nothing about this request that seems concerning. I’m sure your car has all of its seat and trunk space open and available for such requests.

But as I’m sure you can imagine, such was not the case for messy-ole-me.

Almost immediately I took to the street and started pulling a year’s worth of teaching stuff out of the trunk of my car. There I stood on a pristine suburban street, surrounded by paper, bins, books, markers, crafts, pillows, blankets, and other debris from the life of a first year teacher, frantically trying to get them into some semblance of organization.

After forty minutes one of my friends came out to find me.

They lovingly helped me put all my things away into the car, and guided me back inside.

Because the truth was that there was room for someone to ride with me. But my shame over my messiness filled the entire car.

And embracing that shame meant I almost missed the party.

I went to visit those same friends a few weeks ago. They have long since returned from the Peace Corps. As we exchanged texts to arrange details of our get together, my friend warned me, “Just so you know, my apartment is a mess.”

It was a relief, and it was a gift, because I got to see the mess from the other side. And from the other side, when it is my friend’s mess, it isn’t a big deal at all.

Maybe it’s not worth missing out on parties, be they real or metaphorical, because I’m so busy trying to hide my flaws. Maybe sometimes what my friends really need is to hear me say, “I’m a mess.”

And maybe by living our messy lives together, we give each other one of the greatest gifts that friendship can offer: permission to be our honest and true selves, without apology.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n Rachel

P.S. If you ARE a person who likes all things neat and tidy, check out my friend Brigit’s blog, Meaningfully Organized. She even offers free printables!!


The Power of a Post It

We’re pretty obsessed with the Post-It note. The colorful ones, the ones made on recycled paper, the sheet sized ones, the tiny ones, and even the ones shaped like mittens. Post-it notes may be the solution to world peace. If you, like us, get panicky when you don’t have a stack near by, then you may already be using all of our tips. But scroll on through to see some ways we integrate post it notes into our classroom. (And make it to the end for directions on how to enter our first FREE GIVEAWAY!)

The Post-It for Charting: (The big Post-it)
ImageTo make thinking visible we use charts. Nothing new here. However, if your students are like mine, every single piece of my mini-lesson has to be scripted without pause. Therefore, it can be tricky to make my students wait for me to chart out my thinking. Also, by the time I’m charting I often have forgotten the exact wording I wanted. By this time Shila is pinching Lily and Evelin is braiding Emma’s hair.

I find it helpful to write my thinking on a large post it note, and put it on the page where I will stop. Then, I can pull that Post-It off and put it up while I am saying my thinking–no pause, and the added advantage of helping my visual learners in real time.

During the students’ time to turn and talk to each other, I circulate, and find one example to chart on post it notes while I listen. In the debrief, I put the Post-It note with their thinking up, crediting the thinker, while explaining what they said. This picks up the pace of the lesson dramatically, and makes sure that what the student share out is pertinent and helping to move the lesson forward. (We hate to say that students sharing out is dead space, but in a ten minute mini-lesson, I find that calling on hands willy-nilly can lead to a long side trail of hearing about Jamar’s trip to Red Lobster the night before. This is obviously something I need to explicitly teach my students not to do, but the mini-lesson is not the place I choose to do that teaching.)

The students love to see their ideas on the board, and sometimes I allow them to sign their Post-It at the bottom before returning to their seat for independent reading time.

(A special shout out to the Chicago Literacy Group for introducing me to this use of post it notes. Check them out here)

The Post It for Arranging Seats: (The mini Post-It)

This trick was taught to me by my teaching coach my first year of teaching. Using small post-it notes, write a student’s name on each one. Then, code each note with any special considerations. For me, I do a 1, 2, 3 ranking based on their behavioral concerns or their ability to work with others in groups. I might also add a note for glasses, proximity to teacher, etc, to remind me to give preferential seating.

After that, I can rearrange the post it notes over and over until I have just the right combination of students.

The Post It for Note Taking: (The standard sized Post-It)
Here’s a picture walk. First, I put Post-It notes on whatever note-taking sheet I have been given to use. (This works for reading, math, or any subject)

(Obviously the Post-It notes are not perfectly aligned to the sheet. This doesn’t bother me, but if it’s annoying to you, I suggest you look at the step by step tutorial for printing on Post-It notes on this blog here.)

After taking the notes, simply transfer each note to that student’s page:

(I made this one blank to protect the anonymity of my students) Voila! Easy.

The Post-It Compliment: (Any Post-It, but shaped Post-Its work well here)

IMG_1606I like to use the shaped Post-It notes to give immediate positive feedback to my students. This can be as simple as “You did your homework” and as detailed as “You remembered not to kick Tony”. (Or maybe that just happens in my class.) Given my background and belief in Responsive Classroom, I do try to make sure all my comments are quantified and specific, and leave out value judgements (ex. You walked through the hallway silently vs. I like how you did a good job walking through the hallway). But you’ll have to make your own decisions about what to write :-).

I know one teacher who writes the post it notes ahead of time, using some common praises, and hands them out when she sees it happening in action.


In honor of our first Tuesday Tip, we are giving away a Post It Prize Pack!

We believe in Post-It notes, and we want you to have your own supply! Since Post-Its are expensive, it can be tempting to want to buy the knock off brands like stickies or stick ums. We recommend against this, as the notes tend to fall off of charts, out of notebooks, and end up all over the floor.

In order to start you off, we want you to win this prize pack for your home, classroom, or office! There are several ways to enter to win: (You can enter each way to get THREE entries)

1.) Comment below with your favorite use for Post-It Notes
2.) Like our page on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/teacherreadermom
3.) Share this page on your facebook page and tag us in it!

(Unfortunately we are only able to ship to a United States address.)

Thanks for reading, and good luck! (Drawing will take place on January 21st, just in time for next week’s tip!)