Welcome Back Week: Helpful Hints {a FREEBIE too!}

You would think that since I've been back in school for a week and a half (this makes our 2nd full week), that I'd be ready to link up with one of my favorite blogger friends this week.

Nope. :)

Early on this week, I had the worst bout of insomnia I think I've ever had to deal with. ZERO sleep on Sunday. Zero minutes, people. Four hours on Monday night. I eventually got up around 3:45am on Tuesday and started "doing stuff" that wouldn't wake my husband up. If I had tried to Zombie-blog, there's no telling what kind of "Welcome Back" advice you would've gotten! :) My body finally caved in and I've gotten real sleep for the last 2 nights. Here's hoping that keeps up!!

Let's get down to business.

I've tried about a million different ways to keep all of those back to school forms organized. We also have to hang on to every single excuse note, change in transportation note, any kind of communication between school and home - we keep it! All of that paperwork got really overwhelming until last year. (I'm really embarrassed that it took so long to figure it out!) My fabulous partner (remember her?!) was the one who came up with our solution as well.

Credits: Ashley Hughes, KG Fonts, Hello Fonts, Creative Clips, Lovin' Lit

We each keep up with the information for our homeroom classes, but it ALL goes in one binder. We upgraded to 2 inch binders this year, but we made it through the year with 1 inch binders last year. The secret to our "organization" isn't the binders - it's what we use inside of them!

It's really simple. We put each kiddo's information sheet in the front of a page protector. EVERYTHING ELSE we collect that year goes behind it (inside the page protector) in chronological order. Everything we collected for our kids that year --and more!-- fit into the page protectors. And at the end of the year, we pulled it all out, shredded it, and we were ready to start over after our summer break.

I will say that it was an especially helpful tool when we were talking to parents for the umpteenth time about homework/attendance/behavior/whatever and we were able to pull out everything we had collected during the year. As in, "You can see we've been working on this for awhile..." It was a really easy way to C.Y.A for us. ;)

I'm posting a simple freebie tonight! If you like this idea, you can implement it ASAP because I am sharing my cutie-patootie binder covers with you! 

Just click on the picture above to grab it from Dropbox. If you don't have an account, it's FREE and it's a really easy way to share and collect files. I have it on my home and work computers. I love being able to create files at home in my pajamas, save a copy to my Dropbox, and print it off at school!

I made the file editable so you can type in your own name. There's also a duplicate page without text on the phone image so you can add your own or just delete it to keep it blank.

Enjoy! I'm off to bed... wish me luck! :) 


Back to School Blog Hop: Tips, Freebies, and a Giveaway!

When the fabulous Christi Fultz started talking about a Back to School Blog Hop, I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever fun idea she had up her sleeve. 
I know many of you (gasp) are back in school already. I went back (sob) this past Wednesday. Our kids come on August 7th. I've been collecting Back to School ideas on this Pinterest board and I'm *almost* ready for Meet & Greet on Monday afternoon!
I'm starting the year without my favorite teaching partner. She just had the cutest baby ever, so she'll join me in October after her maternity leave is finished. Her sweet supply teacher is brand new to teaching and hasn't had too much experience in a low income, high ESOL school like ours. As I was thinking about the things I wanted to share with her, I realized there were more than a few things I wish someone had shared with me before I started teaching...
I know not every district has this kind of resource available, but it's worth checking out. We are a large school system with a huge array of ESOL students and families entering our schools every year. I make every effort to utilize our International Welcome Center when I need a major class form translated - welcome letters, supply lists, permission slips, etc. If I can't get it translated, then I try to schedule a conference with one of our system translators on hand. If all else fails, I ask the family to come in and bring a translator with them. Make every effort. Think about how frightening it would be to hand your children over to complete strangers every day that you struggle to communicate with. I am in awe every year of how much trust many of our families put in us. Don't take it for granted - do everything you can (within reason) to make sure they feel included! 
Along those same lines, if you work in a low income area don't assume that all of your parents know how to read and write. It doesn't matter if they speak English or not! I've made that mistake at least once, and I don't ever want to make it again. I try to include images and visual aids whenever I can. Since Meet & Greet is the first time I see many of our parents, I always include as many pictures as possible on whatever paperwork I send home. It is also translated in English and Spanish as much as possible. Last year, I had a little girl arrive from Haiti and at the last minute I was able to send off our letters to get translated into French Creole. She took her paperwork home a few days later than her classmates, but her sweet mama was so appreciative!!
supply list in English and Spanish with visuals
I am also excited to share this *limited time* freebie with you! 
I started playing around with QR codes this summer and managed to come up with some reward cards to go with our Homeworkopoly game. I have an old iPhone I'm going to bring in so the kids can scan the codes to see their prizes for Chance and Computer Cards. 

There are 20 cards - with and without QR codes -  that you can use in your own room. I tried to include as many rewards as possible. I would love to hear from you if you think of one that is missing. You can leave your suggestions in the comments below and I'll add them as soon as I can! Our first day of school is Wednesday, so I'm not making any promises! :)
I'm only leaving this product free until Thursday night, so please grab it while you can! 
Now hop on to Lynn's fantastic blog - Fun in the Fours - to grab your next set of tips and freebies! 
Make sure you go all the way around and enter our HUGE giveaway at the end!