The ‘Perfect’ Way to Work and Still Maintain Your Home Without Going Nuts

I grew up in a world of self-imposed perfection. If I didn’t dress perfectly, make perfect grades, have perfect friends and act with utter perfection, I believed I was a horrible human being. What I really did was drive myself perfectly nuts trying to be all things to all people at all times. It was all in my perception.

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As I aged, this need for perfection carried over to my household duties and chores until, one day, while on my hands and knees in the corner with a toothbrush and a cotton swab, I suddenly realized that this behavior was going to be the death of me through stress. I worked hard enough during the week and, gosh darn it, my house could be imperfect and the world would keep on revolving. The bed could be unmade, the coffee cup in the sink unwashed, and the front porch not swept and it would be OKAY. No one was coming to take me away to cleaning rehab, or to scoff at my towel hanging in the bathroom to dry.

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When I ask my coworkers now if they have seen a certain movie, or went to a certain event, or were able to go to vacation to a certain place, they all tell me they don’t have time. “How”, they ask, “are you able to do all those things?” Well, I’ll tell you. I created a formula, because I am a Science teacher after all and formulas are some of what I do, and it goes like this:

Pre-planning and forethought + daily dedication = More free time

Below is the formula in action. I have used it and it WORKS. You can adjust as needed to fit your home. I have found that if I spend 30-45 minutes per day doing one room really, really well, I don’t spend my weekend or free time trying to meet /fight/ satisfy / avoid my need for things to be perfect (it’s always a battle with myself). I also have more time in the evenings to rest and get ready for the next day.

I decided to post this, as school begins for me tomorrow, in hopes that it may help someone who feels overwhelmed, and, to help remind me that the larger picture of life isn’t based on whether or not you can eat off my floors [which you can’t]: It’s based on how I’m able to touch lives through education and maintain love and devotion to my family. Have a great week and remember to look for the sunny side!

**Disclaimer: These photos are not of my actual home. They are what I would love to have, but as we all know, teachers don’t choose the profession for the $. My swimming pool is a blow up and my slip and slide is a string of black garbage bags, so don’t be hatin’. 🙂

Every day

1 load of laundry washed, folded, put away

Dishes washed

Sift Cat litter (unless you don’t have a cat, then this would be pointless) 🙂

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Monday: Bathroom

Toilet inside and out

Bathtub

Sink

 baseboard

 Dust

Sweep/Vacuum

Floors by Hand

 Straighten cabinets

 Wash all rugs

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Tuesday: Bedroom

Change linens

Dust

 baseboard

 Sweep/Vacuum

 Floors by hand

Wash all rugs and dog beds

Straighten Closet

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Wednesday: Living Room

Dust

Wash all cushions and dog beds

baseboard

Sweep/Vacuum

Floors by Hand

Windowsills cleaned

Clean front door window

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Thursday: Dining Room

Dust

Window sills cleaned

baseboard

Sweep/Vacuum

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Friday: Kitchen

Cabinets wiped

 baseboard

Empty Refrigerator

Clean Vent-a-hood and oven top

 Sweep/Vacuum

 Floors by hand

Straighten cabinetsmodern-kitchen-decor-vintage-style-1

Saturday: Yard and laundry room

Mow and weed as needed

Clean front porch

Sweep deck

Recycling

Sweep/vacuum

Floors by hand

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Sunday: Pay Bills and Rest

Garbage put out

Checkbook updated

Go to church, relax, spend time with family

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Things Every New Teacher Should Know

Looking back at my first day of teaching, I have to think, oh, little naïve one, so full of ideas and hopes. How dashed you will be when you realize that teaching isn’t always the makings of a movie script. I pat my own head in my mind.

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If I were to offer new teacher any advice, it would be as follows:

1) Running your own classroom is nothing like what you see in the movies. Students are not going to file in your room, stand upon their desks and utter ‘Oh Captain, My Captain!’ ala ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ style.  After a month, they are not going to play your Opus, Mr. Holland. You might be lucky if you get a ‘To Sir, With Love’ mug at the end of the year. These movies and all those about teaching such as ‘Dangerous Minds’ and ‘Stand and Deliver’ are fantastic and uplifting. They show what CAN happen in some classrooms with the right teachers and the students who respond. However, they are not the status quo and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you feel a day isn’t notable.  You will have some amazing days, where you go home and feel that you made a difference and all is right with the world. Just be prepared that some days, you’d like to crawl under a rock instead.

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2. Be prepared for anything, like a Boy Scout. We joke where I work that the only consistency we have is inconsistency.  Don’t invest so much emotional time into an activity that you can’t change or move it at a moment’s notice.  For example, I was the dance team sponsor for a while and we were to have a Pep Rally on Thursday.  The day of the planned rally, it was cancelled and rescheduled for the following week.  Annoying? Yes.  Was I mad? You betcha, but that’s just what happens sometimes. Same thing for tests. You can plan a test and have review sheets distributed and then, on the day of the test, you have a fire drill or an evacuation. You have to be able to pick back up where you left off without thinking that ‘everything is ruined now!’ Sob!

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3. Sometimes your best laid plans, don’t work, at all. Ask for help.  When I started teaching, I used a poker chip system to reward behavior. Good behavior = chip, bad behavior = I take a chip. Problem? The kids stole the chips. They wrote on them. They brought some from home to try to fool me.  I had to change my approach after a few trials, admit that this idea stunk, and find something new.  You will find what works for you through trial and error.  Ask other teachers what they do for bathroom passes, behavior issues, homework, etc. and they will be happy to tell you what’s worked for them. Don’t use something that clearly isn’t effective because you don’t want to ask for help. Also, don’t use my chip idea. Pain in the butt.

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4. Make friends with the custodians. These folks know all, see all, hear all. They know where extra desks are located, where paint can be found to fix the door chips, and they have the carts and buggies to haul around your heavy stuff.  Search out the one in your building, introduce yourself, and always be nice. Your floors might end up a little shinier.

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5. Stay away from the front office. Some people may disagree with me on this one, stating that the people there are willing to help you and that they’re there for you! Not that front office folk can’t be friendly, but they have their own things to do. They probably don’t have time to hear your concerns on the bathrooms, or how little Johnny won’t stop talking.  Many of them are busy fielding parent requests, completing invoices, making phone calls about absentees, dealing with a kid that brought drugs to school, etc. It’s not that your concerns aren’t important. The thing is, if you can talk them over with someone else, like a department head, that would probably be a better idea than becoming a fixture next to the Assistant Principal’s office.

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6. If at all possible, get yourself a classroom refrigerator to store your food if your District allows it. Lunch at my school was once pretty good. Then, with recent government changes in nutrition requirements, I would rather eat a stale biscuit half gnawed on by vicious garden gnome.  Some schools have catering (not that I’m all that jealous…well, maybe a little…okay a lot) and I hear the teacher meals are decent. Ask other teachers and see what the consensus is. We used to celebrate Fish Stick Fridays with Facebook invites because we so looked forward to the Mac & Cheese and Broccoli salad. Those days are gone and this past year, because I’d not yet bought a refrigerator, I ate Nutella straight out of the jar for a week for lunch.  A little Nutella goes a long way. (My friends would say I just uttered blasphemy).

737926p7.  Have back ups of your back ups. Always keep your lessons and lesson plans backed up. You never know when your District will get a virus. I’ve had one twice in 6 years and had I not had a copy of everything on my home computer, I would have been hiding in the closet, crying and mumbling incoherently.  Invest in one or two memory sticks and always try at least once a month to back up any files you worked on. Better safe than sorry. memory-card68. Don’t allow other teachers to overwhelm you. They mean well, but sometimes they might try and share everything they’ve collected in 25 years with you in 1 day. Take the information, put it to the side, and look through it when you have time. Remember, you will find your own groove and way of doing things. Not one teacher is the same and therefore, not one teacher teaches exactly the same.  Take a deep breath, perhaps drink some wine like my coworkers do (one said she drank straight out of the box in the bathroom at home and cried after a hard day), and remember, every day is a new day and you can make it if you take baby steps.

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9. Some of your students will never like you. Accept it. Do you like every single person you’ve ever met? Then why expect every single students to like you and your class? You could have done nothing wrong, have always been friendly and they still won’t like you. They may have come in with preconceptions about you based on a person they know who knows a person who knows a person who went to school with you, etc.  They may not care for your discipline, call your class dumb, or just not be interested in your subject area. This doesn’t make you a bad teacher. You have to think of all the students who DO like you, who DO like coming to your class and who ARE involved in the learning. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but occasionally, those kids who you thought never liked you will see you in town years later, and tell you how much they enjoyed your class. Weird.

Mischievous student

10. When you have a chance to go to a state or national conference, GO! You will get some great ideas, meet other people in your field, be able to discuss concerns with testing, etc. and earn credits for your license at the same time. I once went to the National Convention for Science in New Orleans, and my coworker, who loved Bill Nye, found out he was the guest speaker and kept chasing him around yelling ‘Bill Nye! Bill Nye!’. Good times.

Bill-Nye

11. Every time you see a sale on school supplies, it never hurts to throw a couple of extra things in your basket. Yes, we don’t get paid a lot to teach. Yes, we have our own families to care for. The kids you will teach, however, will also become an extended part of your life, and you will think of them as ‘my kids’. As you know, some kids can’t afford an extra box of crayons, or a zipper bag when theirs breaks.  Sure, they have some access to supplies at the beginning of the year through some school programs, but once those are gone, should they be left with nothing? The first time you have to watch a kid color with map pencils that are so short they can no longer be sharpened, and you know from having them in class that they have no money and are on free lunches, will be the last time you second guess yourself about throwing a box of map pencils for $.99 in your buggy. You don’t do it for the money, and if you have a little to use in this way, it will bless someone, and bless you in return.

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I could go on and on about advice I would give, and might even have to make this a two-part post. Remember, it’s about you finding your mojo and using your special gifts to inspire and teach the leaders of tomorrow. Smile and be happy this week!

6 People You Will Work With in Your Lifetime

Now we all have those special co-workers who have helped shape us.  They are our mentors, in many cases our friends, and sometimes become our second family. This post is not about those people. It’s about The Others. My co-workers are I were discussing the other day how new hires reminded us of some employees that had come and gone in the past, and I started wondering: Is there a list that I could create of types of people I have experienced throughout my employment history? Turns out, there is.

The Mole

(AKA The Behind Kisser, AKA Anything To Get Ahead, AKA The Backstabber, AKA Why Are They In The Front Office Again?)

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Identifying Attributes:  Everyone acquaintance, but nobody’s friend: The people they report to don’t even like them.  Always seems to show up when whispering begins.  You check your room/office/cubicle for listening devices because you just KNOW that they’re looking for something to report.  When sighted, everyone scatters like mice in a lit kitchen.  They ‘bait you’ to see what you’ll say, for example, “What do you think of this new dress code?”.  They are the first people you warn new hires about.

Pollyanna

(AKA Practically Perfect In Every Way, AKA The Pet)

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Identifying Attributes:  Usually lack a backbone of any kind. Allow upper management to treat them like a doormat because they will never, ever stand up for themselves.  Always gets the best assignments, duties, and jobs with a dutiful pat on the head.  Afraid to express opinions, try new things or go out on a limb because they might get into trouble and offend someone.  Deer and other wildlife flock to them as they sing in the parking lot. Super annoying.

The Hoarder

(AKA That’s Mine Even If It Isn’t, AKA Her Room Gives Me Panic Attacks, AKA Her Room Is A Fire Hazard)

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Identifying Attributes:  They still have ‘How To’ manuals for computer software from 1986.  They dig through things you’ve put out for custodians to take away. Anything they encounter in their environment becomes theirs, even if it has YOUR name on it.  At last count, they had roughly 2,000 assorted pencils and pens, yet refuse to loan any.  You never eat any food they bring to office parties.

The Critic

(AKA Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better, AKA Show Off, AKA Know It All)

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Identifying Attributes: Love to say, “Well, when I did ________, I did it this way and it worked”.  You could find a cure for a disease and they will tell you that they knew about that cure first, but just didn’t report it.  They belittle anything you say and try to do. They LOVE to prove people wrong and will spend business time doing research to do just that.  They argue with professionals, co-workers, children, plants, inanimate objects, etc.  By the time they’re done with you, you feel as effective/useful a person as half a bra.

The Underachiever

(AKA The Slob, AKA Are They Asleep?!, AKA No, You Can’t Borrow My Lesson Again.)

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Identifying Attributes: The last person in the parking lot in the morning and the first gone in the afternoon. They get paid the same as you, but do 100% less.  They sneak into a meeting and sign in during the last 10 minutes whereas you’ve sat there an hour.  They eat your food out of the common refrigerator.  They usually come in with a hangover, dark sunglasses, and a stamp on their hand.  You have no idea why they still work there.

The Needy Whiner

(AKA Why? Why? AKA It’s Not Fair, AKA Everyone Is Picking On Me, AKA Negative Nellie)

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Identifying Attributes: Thinks the whole world is against them, and that receiving an assignment, student, etc. is a punishment from God.  They make every conversation about them and their problems.  They don’t want help. They just want to complain.  When you ask them how they’re doing, they tell you terrible and begin to list all their trials and tribulations. They are the most miserable people to be around. Listening to their stories makes you want to stab out your eardrums with chopsticks.

Grime of Students Past

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Many, many thanks for all the great responses I’ve received since starting my blog. I wish I could respond to everyone, so here’s me (ME) giving you (YOU) a big thumbs up!

One of my favorite teachers left to join another District recently, and as I looked at her empty room today, I remember the fun we had making our own cleaning supplies last year.

Why did we do this? For several reasons:

1. We wanted to know what was in it,

2. We’re Science Teachers and we like mixing stuff,

3. It seemed like fun, and

4. To save moolah.

For those who don’t know, moolah has nothing to do with cattle, unless you’re selling the cattle, in which case, you’ll be making moolah from your moos. Maybe you could call it a Cash Cow. 🙂

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Anywho, as I begin to work on my classroom this week, (having finally gotten into the building – who waits until 2 days before Meet the Teacher to wax the floors?!),  I am reminded that I need to make a new batch of laundry detergent.  I am convinced my classroom is holding grime from the ghosts of students past and after today,  I’m wearing most of it.

Side note* Anyone else ever develop sinus problems after returning to work at school? It could be the single paned windows with decorative green slime that’s letting in allergens,  or maybe the collection of dust badgers (bigger than bunnies) on top of my storage cabinet.  Regardless, I mean for at least my clothes to be clean while I’m sniffing and snotting at Meet The Teacher Day.

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Frank, The Little Known Dust Badger

I have played around with different formulas, and I like this one best. You will need:

1 bar Fels Naptha (I never even knew this stuff existed until I looked for it on the laundry aisle)

1 bar Zote (I get mine from Lehmans.com, but Castille bar soap also works. Someone told me that they have it at Target aka The Evil Store where I spend too much moolah).

1 container OxyClean or, in my case, Dirty Jobs brand. (It was $4.99, $2 cheaper than Oxyclean, and I had a $1 coupon for it. I am a Coupon Ninja).

1 box Borax ( You can also use Washing Soda that is located next to the Fels Naptha that you never knew existed)

Optional: 1 container of Downy Pearls, Purex Beads, etc. for smell factor.

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I like things that are easy to make. I take a clean cat litter container (Tidy Cat works pretty well with a snap on lid), grate the bar soaps using a small grater, throw everything else in, FIRMLY put the lid on (I wouldn’t mention it if I hadn’t, cough, not done that once), and shake away.

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It takes only half a scoop, or if you’re really grimy, like on the day I clean gum from under the desks, use a full scoop.

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Pretty Detergent

I’m off to wash some clothes now and I wish each of a happy and stress free first week of In-service, Professional Development, Planning or Cleaning.

Remember, always look for the sunny side: Even if it’s runny, it’s there!

Funny Things Kids Ask and Say: Episode 1 of a Gazillion

I consider interacting with my students to be one of the best aspects of my job.  Every now and then, I am also treated to a great laugh.

Despite thinking they ‘know everything’, 8th graders are at their best when they feel comfortable enough to be honest.  Here are some of the best questions and statements I have heard in my class in the past few years. Yes, these are real, and yes, you should all get a good chuckle.

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Me: Let’s look at the root word for ‘Radiation’. We have the word ‘ray’. What does that make you think of?

Student (very excited, hand waving): My Uncle!!

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Me: We talked about Chernobyl the other day.  Can anyone give us a recap?

Student: Doesn’t he make popcorn?

Me: Are you thinking about Orville Redenbacher?

Student: Yeah!…wait….No, I don’t know anything. Never mind.

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Student was flicking at a poster of Uranus on the wall above his head.

Me: Please quit playing with…….uh, Jupiter

(remembering at the last moment that the students pronounced the planet as ‘Ur-anus’ and I didn’t want the class to be disturbed with a chuckle)

Student 2, loudly: He’s not playing with Jupiter! He’s playing with Uranus!

-Class was pretty much over after that-

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Written on my “What If and Funny Statements” Wall:

If you say the words ‘beer can’ with a British accent, it sounds like you’re saying ‘bacon’ like you live in Jamaica.

(Go ahead and try it. You know you want to)

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Student: If you were missing a toe, would you still wear a flip-flop?

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Student: What kind of rice is this? (points to menu)

Menu reads:        Orange Glazed Chicken

         Over Rice

Hope you enjoyed these few. I have many, many more that I’ll share as I go along.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and remember, no matter what your career or what you do,  take time to laugh!