Category: Classroom

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?



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.

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!

High School Classroom Reveal: 2016

T-2 Days! Back-to-School Night is two days away and my classroom has to be completely ready to go for the parents. As if I wouldn’t want it that way, anyway?

Personally, I have perfectionist tendencies. But I live in reality and understand that not everything can be perfect. Like the lighting in these photographs. This is as good as it gets. So I apologize for some dark or glare-filled photos.

I also want to apologize for my lack of theme. All of the best classroom reveals on Pinterest are these amazing color-coordinated, perfectly-themed, high school appropriate classrooms, but not me!! I am just happy that the room is acceptable looking.

This is the reality of high school. Students want a balance between super-colorful, fun rooms and a place of serious study. In my experience, they vary by the day. So I do what I can to strike a balance and make my classroom the best that I can make it.

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The Door:¬†Obviously “Welcome” in Scrabble letters is the most exciting Back-t0-School door ever! Actually I like it because, you can’t tell in this picture but our hallways are tiny! The kids cram into the hallway and backpacks scrap along the walls. Think… Black Friday at Walmart! Many an amazing door has been ruined by book bags and bodies, so I have given up and decided on a simple door this year. The Scrabble letters are heavy duty and laminated. They should survive the year.


2016-08-18 Classroom Reveal4Entering the Room:When you first walk into my room, this picture is what you will see. I only have one bulletin board in my room (for which I am grateful). I really like information for the students, not all decoration, so my doors serve as both – information & decoration.

Door #1 (on the left) covers the current candidates for the election. Just having this bit of information is a great start to grasping all of the names and faces of the upcoming election.

Door #2 shows several pictures of our current government officials including the President, VP, Supreme Court, State Governor, and US Senators. Also a list of things to pray about for our officials. We are allowed to do that sort of thing in my school.

Door #3 is my missing homework board. I will show you more about how I do all of that another day. It works!

Door #4 is my success chart door. I have way more students that you can see here, so I also use the inside of my doors.
2016-08-18 Classroom Reveal5

Above: To the left of this photo is my homework station. I will cover that on another day as well, but this is where students turn in homework, notebooks (in the basket), and where they can pick up any handouts they missed. On the walls I have a few motivational posters that I found on Pinterest. Above the chalkboard is my verse of the year. 1 Peter 1:27. I feel like it is very appropriate for this election year, when most people are dissatisfied with both candidates. Then my desk to the right.

Below:¬†My lone bulletin board and signature American flag. I always have an American flag hanging in the room. I teach American history, so it is a must. As you can tell I don’t have a huge classroom. I can fit 16 comfortably, but I have taught 22 in here before. That was a tight fit! One of the benefits of teaching at a smaller private school is a high teacher-to-student ration. Our class size averages 15 students per teacher.

2016-08-18 Classroom Reveal6

Well, that’s it! It’s a small room. I’m sure you will get to see some close ups in the future. For now, more than anything, I wanted you to know that some classrooms don’t look exactly like Pinterest. ūüôā




Encouraging Success

Today I started¬†back in my classroom decorating and sorting papers, tests, etc. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (Not really…)

As much as I love going back to school, I have a severe love/hate relationship with decorating my classroom. Because I teach Middle School through early High School, my students are at a really odd age where they love the super-decorated classrooms, but they don’t want them to be childish. Last I checked teacher supply stores don’t carry said classroom decor – you know what I mean. Woodland animals, insects, even the hippest chalkboard themed decor can really be a turn off for a 12-17 year old.

As a result, I have started making *most* (not all) of my own classroom decor. It was out of necessity. I will give you a tour of my classroom when it is finished, but as of right now, it is not.

One of the items that I was forced into making was a fun system to reward the students for Encouraging Success1_edited-1doing well and encourage them to keep pushing forward. As long as it is not overdone, every single teenager loves getting a sticker. Trust me, they do not love getting a sticker on every single assignment. That borders on embarrassing! But my 12-17 year old students absolutely love being acknowledged for a job well done. They like letting their friends know in a passive-aggressive sort of silent way. Something else I have noticed about 12-17 year olds is they love any excuse to get out of their seats.

Alright, MS & HS teachers, remember those old sticker charts that you used in elementary school for good behavior? Well, I have revamped them for high school!

Introducing… drum roll, please… the¬†Success Chart!! These babies are great!

Every time a student gets a certain percentage on a test, quiz, or project grade, they are awarded a sticker of their choice to add to their success chart – which is of course, located in the front of the room. At the end of the year, those who make it to the final row of their charts receive a small reward – like a lollipop. Those who complete the charts by the end of the year – get a candy bar of their choice! It’s a big deal. ūüôā

And the stickers… There is delightful mayhem when it is comes to these stickers. I have boys in my class who¬†regularly request that I shop for certain types of stickers. (The 16 year old crowd is particularly fond of the bees and penguins.) My students make patterns with their stickers. They try to make all of the stickers on their chart blue. They try to get all of the stickers to be the exact same turkey for all 42 slots. And competition is fierce to see who has the most stickers.

Encouraging Success3

Adding a sticker to their chart is seriously something they look forward to! It is a bad day for me if I forget to announce the recipients of the stickers or run out of the current favorite sticker.

Encouraging Success2Yes, I know the students¬†enjoy getting out of their seats. I know they enjoy maybe “wasting” a few minutes of class and getting some candy. But I also know that my students study just a little harder because they want that sticker. I know that my students are a little more disappointed with their lack of studying when they miss a sticker, and it encourages them to work a little harder next time.

I have also seen this inspire students to encourage those who don’t get stickers as frequently. Some of the students have studied with those who don’t do as well, so they can get a sticker next time. There are cheers and high-fives for those who do well, and the thrill of finishing a chart at the end of the year.

Overall, the Success Charts have been successful in my classroom. ūüôā


If you really love the Success Chart idea, check them out at TeachersPayTeachers: