Why History Matters Career Bulletin Board

Why History Matters Career Bulletin Board

Every year students ask the same question. “Why does history matter?”

Sometimes they are well-meaning and genuine. Sometimes they are just wasting time. Sometimes they are being down-right difficult. But the question comes without fail each year, even if I have already explained.

This year I decided instead of just answering their question, I was going to show them. I created this History Careers Bulletin Board so that my students could see just one aspect of why history matters. These are careers that they could possibly go in that require a knowledge and understanding of history (or geography, as I teach that as well).

This bulletin board has changed the conversation. Now students come to me and say, “Tell me more!” I just had lunch in my classroom with a 9th grader, who told me that she¬†loved history but wanted to work in an office. Did I know of any careers that could put those two interests together? I was thrilled to point this young girl toward a few college options, as well as degrees related to both history and offices. ūüôā

Another student spotted the career “Travel Writer” on the bulletin board. She proceeded to research a country that she wanted to visit, discovered that the citizens of this ¬†country struggle to gain access to¬†fresh water, and dreamed of starting a non-profit that would provide the people of this country with tools to access fresh water. She hopes that working for a travel magazine or website someday will give her the opportunity to bring attention to this cause.

If you want to try this Bulletin Board, I have a starter kit with all of the careers for a very reasonable price in my store. Check it out, save some time, and inspire your students!

What do you do to inspire your students to use history in their future?


How to Organize Your Computer Files for School

How to Organize Your Computer Files for School

Do you have too many files on your computer? I do.

With movies, pictures, and music becoming totally digital these days, there isn’t enough space to go around.

When I started teaching, my needs for computer storage increased exponentially. Before I even started selling on TeachersPayTeachers, I was totally out of space. It got so bad that I had¬†I had to upgrade to an annual Dropbox subscription so I could store “archived” files on the cloud, rather than my hard drive. (Dropbox provides you with 1 terabyte of cloud storage with guaranteed backup, access, and security for a fee.)

Having all of that space has been awesome, but it would be really easy to lose files without an intentional organization system. As my storage needs grew, I knew that I needed to keep on top of maintaining all of those files.

These are the main categories that I sort everything into, and some of their sub-categories:

  1. Personal
    • Home
    • Sunday School
    • Jobs/Resumes
  2. School (will discuss more later)
  3. Tpt
    • Blog
    • Business
    • Products
  4. Music (I just rely on iTunes to organize my music)
  5. Movies
    • Personal
    • School
  6. Pictures
    • Always sort by year, then “Number of Month (ex. “09” for September) & Event”
  7. Graphics
    • Clipart (that I have purchased)
    • Creations (that I have made)

Whenever I create a file, no matter what it is, it goes into one of these categories.

Now as teachers, we would all agree that probably the most beastly of them all is “School.” Throughout the year, school can take on a life of its own – when it comes to the ¬†classroom, the¬†desk, and the¬†computer. (I am not the only one, right?)

So I divide all my files into folders, sub-folders and more sub-folders. This might be overkill, but it makes everything SO much easier to locate quickly. In a pinch, it helps me to know exactly where to put or find things.

To start, I divide all of my files into the subjects or courses that I teach. The folders are always labelled with the grade level, name of the subject, and edition of the book I am using. For example – “7 History of the World 5th ed.” I taught 7 History of the World 4th ed., but we don’t use that book anymore so I archived the files to the cloud. Right now I am keeping the files in case, I want to reference a test, quiz, or whatever. You will see in the image below that for my 8th grade history class, I have not yet archived the old edition files. This is because I regularly reference the old files. This summer I will archive the old edition.

After I have my courses folders set up, I sub-divide into quarters. Each course gets four sub-folders. “1st Quarter,” “2nd Quarter,” “3rd Quarter,” “4th Quarter.” Does that make sense? Before I organized my files this way, I only sorted by chapter and that was a mess.

Ok, that’s the hard part. My final sub-division is by testing unit. The curriculum that my school uses tests approximately every three chapters. I label the folders as “Unit x Chapters y-z.” Then whatever file I make related to Unit x or Chapter y-z goes into that folder. There is never a question of where something is or where it should be. All school-related files are in their appropriate ¬†folders.

It all sounds complicated, but honestly the hardest part was deciding to organize this way. Set up was easy and keeping organized has been easy ever since.

Now every classroom has certain files that are used over and over and over again. Think – Absence Forms, Memos to Parents, Reward Cards, etc. So I also have two additional folders that sit at the same level as the Courses – “Master Documents” and the school year (Ex. 2016-2017).

That is a lot of info, so here is an outline view within my folder “School” so you can see what I am referring to. Also there is a screenshot below that.

  • 7 History of the World 5th ed.
    • 1st Marking Period
      • 1st Day of School (where I store ice-breaker games, my rules & procedures, syllabus, Back-to-School info)
      • Unit 1 Chap 1-3
        • All the files related to Chap. 1-3
      • Unit 2 Chap 2-6
    • 2nd Marking Period, etc.


Organizing Your Computer Files for School

If you are looking for help organizing, give this system a try. I always recommend trying a new system for a full month or longer. This would actually be most effective if tried for an entire marking period. Let me know how it goes!

How do you organize your computer files?


Cover Image:¬†<a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-vector/designer-s-office-flat-illustration_715197.htm”>Designed by Freepik</a>

Why Training a Puppy Is A Lot Like Teaching Junior High

2017-03-13 16.48.23When my husband and I adopted a dog (who is under a year old) over a month ago, I quickly realized that training a puppy is a whole lot like teaching junior high. I literally would go into school and get frustrated with my students because they did the exact same thing that my dog did!

Here is what I have noticed:

  1. Puppies and students need constant attention! My dog Coby needs constant monitoring. He has gotten better about stealing my shoes, eating my rugs, and chewing on the furniture, but we can’t leave him alone in a room yet. If I try to log into Facebook or eat dinner or grade papers, Coby will do something to require my attention. Sometimes good, like putting a toy in my hand, and sometimes bad, like scratching the walls. Students are the same way. Each student needs my complete attention at all times, which requires serious multi-tasking. If they don’t get the attention they want or think they deserve, they will immediately begin acting out. Sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in bad ways.
  2. Puppies and students never learn their lesson the first time. They need reminded, corrected, and encouraged over and over… and over… again. Coby still hasn’t totally figured out that he can’t steal my decorative pillows from the couch or to stay out of the sink. My students still haven’t learned that homework is always due on the assigned day or that they will do poorly on a test if they don’t take notes in class or study.
  1. Positive reinforcement works best. Coby picked up on his new name immediately. They was no training needed to teach him his name. However, he is horrible at responding to his name. He is very interested in following the scent or chewing that rug or barking at the passing truck. Even though it has been a month, every time Coby comes to me when I call his name, I give him a tiny training treat and praise. When he finally does what I ask him, he gets heavily rewarded. On the times that he chooses to obey, he comes bouncing to me with joy for that treat and hug and loving words. When it comes to my students, I expect that they are obedient all the time. (They speak my language after all!) But I try to offer positive reinforcement for them as well! They get praise when they act a certain way, stickers when they get certain grades, and bonus passes when they have been diligent. All of the kids respond well to positive reinforcement and for many, it encourages them to continue doing the right thing again.
  2. But sometimes discipline is necessary. During the first three weeks that we had Coby he would be really sweet and wonderful then out of nowhere start biting. It wasn’t aggressive, but it was painful. For our safety and sanity, we decided to crate Coby for a period of time if he bit us or got worked up to the point where he was going to. We started at three minutes (recommended on the internet), then actually upped the time to 30 minutes at the suggestion of a trainer. He pretty much hasn’t had any issues with biting since those first few thirty minute sessions in the crate. A student or two of mine may have a horrible habit of showing up late to class. I gave them demerits for each minute late (my school is very generous in their discipline system), and they figured out within two weeks that they needed to get to class on time. Slow learners, but they got it eventually. ūüėČ
  3. When they are behaving, don’t move! Whenever Coby falls asleep, it is seriously a few precious moments of peace and quiet. This time cannot be used to get anything done, because the minute I try to do something the puppy wakes up and wants to go with me. So whenever he falls asleep, don’t move. Don’t do anything. Just sit and relax and enjoy the precious moments. Same thing with my students. Whenever they are behaving, don’t comment on it. Don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t check email. Just keep doing whatever you were doing and hope they don’t notice that they are behaving.
  4. And probably the most significant…. Puppies and students cost money. I decorate my classroom out of my own pocket. I buy snacks, supplies, decorations, prizes, and exciting games and activities for my students out of my own pocket. This isn’t new to¬†me. All teachers who want their students to be successful and happy do this willingly, but it is a common denominator between students and puppies. A new super-harness because he chewed through the really nice one in an afternoon. Another box of treats and several new toys (because the other ones were no match for the velociraptor jaw).

While, of course, there are obvious differences, too many times during the school day, I have thought training these students reminded me a whole lot of training my new puppy. The good news with both is that they will learn. They will figure out what I am trying to tell them and the bad days will become good days.

We Have New Furry Family Member!

We Have New Furry Family Member!

In early February, my husband and I decided to buy a dog. It was a whim to do it NOW, but we had been talking about getting a dog for four years. We knew we wanted a medium-sized young adult (two to four years old) rescue who already had potty-training, obedience-training, and crate-training mastered. We need a dog who specifically would be good with strangers in our home. We started with local SPCA, but ultimately decided that they did not have the right dog for us. Then we started working with local rescues in search of our fur-baby.

As it turns out, within a week, we were smitten with a red and white foxhound mix. He was d2017-02-12 16.24.30escribed as friendly, sweet, and trained. The only concern was that he was under two. Somewhere between one and two years. The listing wasn’t specific and the rescue had only picked him up a day or two before we found him, so they were still working out all of¬†his details. We were actually on a waiting list, but the people ahead of us had cats and this dog does not like cats, so we were able to meet him.

This puppy, who ended up being under one year old, was as sweet and friendly as described. He gives hugs and loves to sit close for lots of petting and attention, though I wouldn’t describe him as a cuddler. Because of he had been abandoned, his name was unknown. We decided to name the little puppy Coby and he instantly responded with joy to his name. When I said his new name for the first time, he cam bounding toward me with the happiest look you have ever seen. We knew at that moment he was the puppy for us.

We found out that Coby was abandoned the day after Christmas. <tug on the heart strings!> His family had been foreclosed on and they left him behind. When the repossessors came, they found him locked in the house. We don’t know how long he was in there. He was then taken to a high kill-shelter, which isn’t a thing in my state, where my local rescue found him and partnered with another shelter in the south to rescue him. He was put in an animal hospital for a few days (he needed neutered), then was fostered down south until arrangements could be made to bring him north. He was then shipped up here, fostered with a family for three days, then adopted by my husband and I.

Needless to say, with a history like that, the honeymoon with Coby lasted exactly two days.   We discovered that he was only potty-trained, not crate- or obedience-trained. During those first two days, we walked, did lots of petting, and took lots of naps. He had boundless energy for the hour or two that he was awake, then he would collapse into a four hour nap. On day three, everything changed. He started chewing  ever2017-02-20 07.54.43ything in our house, biting us (not terribly hard, but definitely not playfully), barking at anything and everything, and overall, Coby was simply miserable. The only time he seemed even remotely happy was when he was outside, preferably playing with the neighborhood dogs. No amount of playing with him, entertaining him, walking with him, or loving on him seemed to help. He was making us miserable, and the only time we were happy was when he was in his crate. Not the best way to start.

My husband went away for a weekend trip at the end of Week 2 and I was fully prepared to call the rescue and say that things weren’t working. The bruises on my arms made it clear that things weren’t working. My husband left Thursday afternoon and by Thursday night, I called him in tears. It was bad. This weekend happened to be the same weekend the North got hit with amazing 70-80 degree weather. I spent most of it outside just to appease my crazy, unhappy dog.

Now, at this point, I had already given myself the speech about how we had adopted this dog and it was a permanent decision. We needed to work through it. But I knew that if I wanted to eat, I was going to feel it. I knew that I had done literally nothing but monitor the dog for two weeks. No after-hours school work, no Tpt product creation. I had hardly left the house. I was willing to admit defeat.¬†After all, it is possible that this wasn’t the right dog for us. We might not be the right family for him.

That warm February weekend I found myself sitting on a park bench next to a lady, who happened to have adopted her dog from the same rescue as Coby. Her dog had been adopted at a similar age and had similar struggles early on. It took about six months for her dog to really come around, and from what she could tell Coby seemed to be doing great for his first two weeks. We talked and I might have cried, and this sweet total stranger talked me into giving him more time to come around.¬†So I recommitted to giving this horribly behaved dog a chance, and somewhere in that change of heart/mind, the puppy and I bonded. I didn’t realize it right away. Two days after my husband returned, I needed to sequester myself into my office to get something done, and the dog laid outside my door the entire four hours I was in the room.

It took my husband and the dog another two weeks to bond and now we are a happy family… most of the time. Coby has great days and really bad moments, but we are making progress. He goes into his crate willingly now, but doesn’t walk well on a leash. He has stopped biting almost entirely, but has chewed through almost all of the toys we bought him. He ran away on Monday, but stopped every few moments to make sure I was following him. He has learned a few commands, like coming on command, sitting, and laying down. We are at 50% or higher success rate, which is better than never a 2017-03-04 12.23.35month ago. ¬†(The success rate is like 99% when I have a treat in my hand.)

I feel like we can finally say that Coby is settling in. He is the most popular dog in the neighborhood because of how friendly he is. His tail starts going crazy when he sees his friends, and he even has a bestie – a cute female lab mix. He likes to talk to our neighbor’s dog through the walls of our townhouse. Last night was the first time he slept outside of the crate on his bed and he did great.

It has not been an easy or fun road, but we are making progress. Tomorrow night we start obedience classes and this puppy has definitely found his forever home.

Bulletin Board Idea: Americans Close to Our Hearts

When I started teaching history full-time, I discovered a sad truth. There are very few high school level, content-rich social studies/history bulletin boards. It is horrible. There is very little inspiration out there.

To make matters worse, my school requires that teachers change up their bulletin boards every 6-8 weeks. Because of seasons, that ends up being five or six bulletin boards per year!

Recently I was inspired by Pinterest’s abundance of “African Americans We Love” or “African Americans Close to our Hearts” bulletin boards.¬†While I do put considerable effort into Black History Month in February (and this might be a story for another day), I just really wanted a bulletin board that didn’t have racial preference. So I modified the board to simply “Americans Close to Our Hearts.”


My board features a variety of Americans in a variety of fields from multiple eras. Including:

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Henry Ford
  • Walt Disney
  • Rosa Parks
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Neil Armstrong
  • Meriwether Lewis
  • Madam C.J. Walker
  • Thomas Edison
  • Paul Robeson
  • Booker T. Washington

I definitely felt like I could have added many more people to the list, and likely will in the future, but I was out of room and knew that I needed to keep the list curated.

Hope this board inspires you with your own Valentine’s Day creation!

My Favorite Books of 2016

I know I am so late on this post. Every is soo over 2016.

But I truly love to read, and I just wanted to share some of the books that I enjoyed last year.

These seven books¬†are my favorites of 53 books read in 2016. You will notice a pattern. ūüôā

  1. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  2. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
  3. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
  4. Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson
  5. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
  6. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

So, yes, I am an Erik Larson fan. I discovered his books at the library at the beginning of the year and read five of his books in a row. These four I positively loved. The fifth, not so much. But I did learn so much from his books and appreciated/adored the fresh perspective and retelling.

This year was also the first time I came across movies that I loved more than the books. This has never happened to me before. I read¬†In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick and¬†Me Before You by Jojo Meyers before I saw the movies and had mixed feelings about them. Philbrick is characteristically an amazing author right from the start, but I feel like he doesn’t know how to finish a book. His books start strong then fizzle out. Meyers just wasn’t my style. But in both cases, I absolutely adored the movies.¬†In the Heart of the Sea left me breathless and I loved how it blended¬†with Moby Dick. And¬†Me Before You…. oh my! There were tears for days.

My book list for 2017 is growing. I have about 115 books that I want to read, but I know that teaching full-time and working a part-time job will slow the reading progress.

As of right now I am looking forward to reading:

  1. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson (I am currently half way through the book. It just feels like a warm summer afternoon. Loving it!)
  2. The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown
  3. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  4. The Residence  by Kate Anderson Brower
  5. Hopefully some American classics that I never got to in high school because I love British lit so much ūüôā

Remember, there is a book out there for everyone! Of the 53 books that I read in 2016, I only really disliked six of them.

Have fun reading through 2017!

The Result of a Really Bad Summer

Let me tell you a story about me. When I was nine or ten years old I had a really, really bad summer. It started out well enough for any pre-teen girl. I played inside and played outside – typical kid. Then I went on my family’s annual vacation to my grandparents’ summer cottage in northwestern Pennsylvania.

That’s where my summer turned bad. I fell of my grandparents’ boat while it was docked.

No big deal.

I remember being cold and dizzy after that fall, and just wanting to sit down. Before I got to though, my dad went into¬†full-on dad-panic mode. Apparently I had managed to suffer a severe bone-deep gash to my left leg and was losing a lot of blood quickly. The ambulance got lost on the way to our rural location. I remember nothing of the ride in the ambulance, but I do remember that the doctor¬†who stitched me up wasn’t a surgeon and that bothered me.

I spent the rest of the vacation bed-ridden in a dark cabin. I couldn’t sleep in awesome attic because I couldn’t climb the ladder. I spent most of my time on the couch with a perfect view of the lake and everyone having a great time, while all I was allowed to do was watch “Bear in the Big Blue House” or the Weather Channel. It was traumatizing.

Miraculously I survived the rather vacation-ruining event. I couldn’t walk for a few weeks at all, then endured crutches for the remainder¬†of the summer. Today I still have a bright pink 4″ long scar on my left leg, which experiences phantom pains¬†every time that I think about it.

But what this experience taught me (other than an extreme fear of boats, rural locations, and ruined vacations) was to love reading. You see, I couldn’t walk for a few weeks. Worse, I was too old for and hated “Bear in the Big Blue House.”¬†I had the riveting choice¬†of watching the weather¬†for hours¬†or reading a book. I chose to read. (I hated to read, but my parents picked out a book for me about horses and I loved horses.) I think I labored through two¬†or three¬†books that entire summer. I know I read those books more than once, because I just didn’t follow what they were trying to say.

By the end of the next school year, I won a reading competition at my school.

The next summer I borrowed twenty books from the library every two weeks, and I have been an avid reader ever since.

Besides earning a big pink scar on my leg, that really bad summer taught me something invaluable. I learned to read. I learned to read books because I enjoyed what was on their pages. Before I had only read books because it was required. No longer did I have to read Dr. Seuss or the literature anthologies from school, but I could read books about things that interested me. I was enthralled with series like the Saddle Club, Nancy Drew, Mandie, every single book published by the American Girl Company, and my favorite, the Dear America series. Almost every book that I enjoyed was part of a series with a female lead and had a problem to be solved. I found books that interested me.

That summer was horrible. I remember that distinctly. But the results of a horrible summer Рreading Рturned into one of my most cherished aspects of life.

If you have a student or a child who hates to read, remember that reading might not be the problem. The problem may simply be the books that they are reading. Because of my own experiences, I am a fierce advocate of the idea that there is a book out there for every reader. They just need to find it.


Today I read mostly history-related books because I just love history. I also have a secret passion for 1800s British literature (Wilkie Collins… woop woop!!!).

Find a book that child will enjoy. They are going to have to try many books, but there is a book out there. Take it from the girl who used to hate to read.

PS – I read 53 books in 2016.