Llama Relieve Your Stress

Student anxiety is at an all time high.  With grade level standards becoming more rigorous, and state tests looming, teachers are feeling more pressure than ever to prepare students.  That pressure is also felt by students and parents. Teaching healthy coping skills is critical for today's hectic classroom. By addressing mental and physical well-being, optimal learning can take place. 

The ther-llama-ter is a tool for labeling levels of stress and identifying coping skills that are appropriate for each level.  After coloring in their level of stress, students can be guided through coping skills that may help at each level.  From breathing skills to journaling, students find their favorite way to self-soothe.

Fa-La-Llama Holiday Party Craft

Holiday parties at school can be a lot of fun, "IF" they are structured and include an engaging activity.  These llamas in silly holiday sweaters can be taken home as a gift for the family after the fun is over.  Students pick a zen doodle writing circle and one of several llamas and sweaters to build these ornaments.  Teachers and counselors can work with students ahead of time by practicing what they will write on their ornaments.  Students will brainstorm things that they love and write about them. 

You will need:

Markers, Crayons, or Colored Pencils
Hole Punch
Download Printable

Red Ribbon Week Coloring Contest

"Your Future is Key.  Be Drug Free."


Red Ribbon Week is always one of my favorite weeks of the year. This year, I wanted to do something a little differently.  I started with the usual drug awareness lessons in class using videos from www.naturalhigh.org.  If you haven't been to this website, be sure to start with the video from Jon Sundt, the founder of Natural High so that you can get the backstory of how the website came about.  During our lesson, we watch videos from celebrities talking about their natural highs as they recount the reasons why they chose not to use drugs. Between videos, students brainstorm and share their own activities that give them that feeling.  At the end, they think of things that they would like to try that they haven't tried yet.  I end by challenging them to try new things.

After the lesson,  I passed out coloring contest papers and promised candy and prizes to the winners.  We really didn't expect to get as many entries as we did.  Entries have been pouring in all week.  Middle school kids really do enjoy coloring.  Give them a reason, and they will gladly color for you.  It's such a stress reducing activity, that I try to use some element of it in most of my lessons.  Check out some of the entries that we received.  You can get the free download for this coloring contest from my TPT store here.

12 Foolproof Teacher Morale Boosters

Like a beautiful campfire, staff morale needs to be monitored and stoked to keep the happy fires burning.  It's no secret that teachers are over worked and sometimes under appreciated. For most teachers, it's the little things that keep them going. Principals, administrators, school counselors, and parents can work together to create a positive school climate by paying attention to teacher well-being and being mindful of the incredible stress placed on them.

What Teachers REALLY Want



1.  Time!  

There never seems to be enough hours in the day in the life of an educator.  Respect a teacher's time by cancelling meetings that could be an email.  Treat their planning time as sacred.  In a perfect world, there would be fewer meetings, few evaluations, and less paperwork.


2.  Shout-outs

Recognize teachers with a bulletin board of acknowledgements or send around a binder to be passed from teacher to teacher with positive notes to each other.  Organize a Teacher-of-the-week program to reward teachers who are nominated by peers for going that extra mile.  Acknowledge staff birthdays on the intercom, with a hand written note, and/or a treat.  Grown ups are never too old to celebrate their special day. 
Check out this "Shout-outs Binder."

3.  Treats

Occasionally place candy, a small treat, or coupons in a teachers mailbox.  Another fun way to pass out treats is to create a cart full of goodies that you roll around the school on random days. 


4.  Compliments

Just like the students, teachers appreciate being noticed when they are going that extra mile.  Make it a point to say something positive to teachers face to face or on a note left on their desk.


5. Student Thank-you Cards 

Organize a time for students to create thank you cards for their teachers.  Guide students on how to make a thoughtful letter.  Have students brainstorm the good things that their teachers do for them.


6. Laughter

Bling the lounge with funny posters or play a game during a faculty meeting that makes them laugh.  Don't be so serious all of the time.  Admit your own faults and laugh at your mistakes with teachers.  Leave silly signs in the restrooms and other surprise locations.


 7. Fellowship

Provide times for staff gatherings outside of school or arrange a pot luck during the school day.  Play games that start conversations and create laughter and release from stress.  These task cards ask silly "would you rather do this or that" questions.


8. Jeans Days

Allow dress down days as often as possible.  Teachers are busy and need to be comfortable to function at their best.


9.  Trust

Trust them to do their jobs.  Micromanaging can lead to hurt feelings.  These are professionals who worked hard to get their degrees.  They certainly aren't doing it for the money.  Let them be.


10. Self Care Reminders

Continue to remind staff in fun ways that they need to be taking care of themselves.  Teacher burnout is a real problem.  You could organize a self care week at school and find local businesses willing to give coupons for spas and other health services.  One of the faves at our school are the free massages in the lounge by a local chiropractor. See my post on hosting a self-care week.


11. A Break from the Classroom

Get creative in covering their classrooms for an occasional extended lunch or restroom break.  I mean, how much is it to ask to be able to go to the restroom when nature calls? 


12. Feeling Valued

Ask for teacher feedback on upcoming events and school-wide policies.  Include teacher representatives in some administrative meetings.  Have a feedback box for anonymous suggestions. 

I'd love to hear how your school recognizes teachers.  Please leave a comment with your ideas.

4 Ways to Arm Students Against Rumors

Turning away from a juicy bit of gossip can be difficult.  Even as adults, the temptation can be very real. However,  stopping a rumor in its tracks is always the right thing to do.  We need to prepare our students to properly react to rumors before they start drama in the classroom.

What is a rumor?

First, define gossip.  It's not always easy for students to recognize that they are participating in a rumor.  There are many definitions out there, but the main point of a rumor is that somebody is sharing information about someone who is not around to defend themselves.  Try this powerpoint presentation.

Why is it hurtful?

Let students know how easily facts get twisted around by the time they have been through several conversations. Also, people will say that they know something is true even when they don't. 

Four Gossip Tips for Your Students 



Use restraint and don't be tempted to spread a rumor.



The art of distraction is very powerful. Tell a joke or a story to take the attention away from the rumor.


Be Honest

Tell the messenger that you don't want to discuss something about somebody who is not there because you feel like it is the wrong thing to do.  Let them know that gossip can hurt friendships and you don't want to be a part of it.



Smile and don't respond verbally. Walk away and pretend to have other things to do.

Craft about it!

If you are looking for something to do with your students while presenting this material, try this fan that doubles as a tip sheet.  Drama Llama Presentation and Craft

Back to School Stress Free Activity

Thinking back to my classroom teaching days, I remember the first day of school being very hectic.  With students bringing in supplies that need labeling and desks to be organized, it was a daunting task to keep order.  Students need an engaging activity that will keep them calm and focused.  They also need to get to know each other and establish a welcoming classroom community.  I created this banner for counselors but also keeping teachers in mind who are looking for a first week of school craft to help them keep their sanity.

I've tried some of those exciting bonding games like throwing wadded up paper across the room with tidbits of student info written on them.  Those games do have their place, just not for me on the very first day or two of school.  A calming tone needs to be established from the start.  That's why I've decided to kick off this year with a self-calming activity to keep everyone calm and stress-free.  Click to see more.

TPT Marketing Tips

Once you have created a product for Teachers Pay Teachers, it's time to start working on a marketing plan.  With so many sellers on TPT, you have to rely on more than just the search engine to get your product in front of buyers.  There are many different ways you can go about marketing your product, and you will eventually find the apps and programs that you prefer and feel comfortable using.  In this post, I will share my process for marketing a product after it is completed.  My steps have evolved tremendously over the past couple of years due to changes in the store and changes in technology.  I expect it will continue to evolve.  Maybe you can get a few tips to inspire you on your journey to marketing your products.

Print and Test

After creating a product, it gets printed out and tested.  I test products with my students, my children, and/or myself.   During the testing phase, I work out any kinks that may come up and modify the product.  Sometimes during a lesson at school, a student may have a question that I realize needs to be clarified. Some of my products that I use in the classroom, get yearly updates based on technology advances or questions that arise.  Buyer feedback is also taken into consideration when modifying a lesson.

Photos, Videos, and Photo Apps

During the testing phase, I take tons of pictures with my iPhone.  I don't use any fancy cameras or lighting at this time, although I do plan to purchase a lightbox in the future.  It's a good idea to have a solid white or solid black background for close up shots.  I have used poster boards and random items around the house as backdrops.  In addition to still photos,  I will take quick video snippets or use the boomerang app to get a snapshot of the product in use.  Boomerang is a free app that you can download on your phone.  It is kind of like the middle ground between a picture and a video.  There are other photo and video apps that you can experiment with on your phone.  I really love Lomics, Word Swag, and Legend.

Cover Page Template in Powerpoint

Before any new product hits the TPT virtual shelves, I create cover page and thumbnail images.  Now that I have images of the product in use from the print and test phase, I can make more engaging cover pages.  I made a Powerpoint Template that is sized at 8" X 8" for all of my square covers and thumbnails.  To create a template in Powerpoint, choose Design, Slide Size, and Page Setup.  (your version may vary some)

Now that these are ready, it's time to upload the product and move on to social media.

Blog about it

This is about the time that I begin taking notes for a blog post related to a product.  With the product fresh on my mind, and images in hand, it's not too hard to create an effective blog post.  Sometimes it fizzles out and I skip this step or come back to it later.


Three words.  Pin. Pin. Pin.  Nothing seems to drive more traffic to any store than Pinterest.  To create pins that are the optimal size for pinterest, I use 4" X 9".   I spend a good deal of time designing pins for every product.  I usually make 3 or 4 pins for each product with different looks. If I do create a blog post about the product, I will make a pin just for the blog post and pin that as well.   It's a good idea to have a pinterest board called "My Products."  I usually pin everything related to a product to that board initially.  Once it's on that board, I will go back and schedule future pins to other boards.



After pinning to that initial board called "My Products", I open the Tailwind app and schedule the pin on an interval schedule to various boards.  It's fairly easy to use and has built in tutorials.  Tailwind allows me to spend more time creating new products instead of pinning.  If you want to try Tailwind, be sure to use a coupon for a free month.
 Click for coupon.



After pinning, my next priority is Instagram.  It's a good idea to post a mixture of funny pictures, quotes, and product images.  Try to post real pictures of your product in use rather than cover photos.  You can spruce up your images by adding elements from photo apps.  This is when those fun apps like Lomics, Wordswag, and Legend come in really handy.  Don't be afraid to download apps and play around with them without really knowing how to use them.  Many of them are user-friendly and become self-explanatory with practice.   I import the images from the product testing phase into these fun apps to create something that will stand out on Instagram.  This is a comic strip video created on Lomics to promote my Zen Doodle Planner.



If you haven't started scheduling posts on facebook, now is the time.  I recently doubled my followers by scheduling regular informative posts to my page.  I throw in one of my own blog or product posts occasionally.  To schedule posts, click on "Publishing Tools" at the top of the page.  Then choose "create."  This is a huge time saver and very worth the effort.  Once I create a product, I will schedule either a product post or blog post about the product on my facebook page.

Facebook Groups

I'm involved in many online collaborative groups of educators and specialists.  The friendships and connections that I've made on there are invaluable.  One of the groups called The School Counselor Store, allows you to post products for potential buyers.  Some of my favorite facebook groups for networking are Confident Counselors Connection, Elementary School Counselor Exchange, Caught in the Middle School Counselors,
Teachers, Counselors, & Specialists, and Educator Swap & Shop

This may seem like a lot of fuss for each product, and truthfully, it is very time consuming.  You will find yourself feeling overwhelmed at times.  That is when you take a step back and practice your version of self-care.  It's easy to get caught up in the process and become a non-stop working machine.  However, a little fun can go a long way towards recharging your creative juices!  Have fun, don't try to do too much at once, and let your store grow at it's own pace.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  Please leave a comment if you found it helpful.

Don't have a store yet?

If you don't have a store and are considering opening one, click here for my referral link.  I appreciate you reading my post and can answer questions in the comments about getting started.  


Three Ways to Cultivate Self-Control and Reduce Anxiety in Students

Just turn on the news and you can find dozens of things to worry about on any given day.  It's no wonder our students are coming to school with anxiety and fears that are keeping them from living up to their potential.  It is important to take some time to refocus our students' energy on the positive aspects of life.  One way to do this is to explain that there are certain things in life that they will never be able to control and that it is okay to let those things go.  Show them how to be kids again and leave the big problems up to the adults.

Share these tips with students to cultivate self-control & reduce anxiety.

Focus time and energy on things that you can actually change. 
Make a list of easy to achieve things that you can do to improve a situation that you are worried about.  By making progress towards a manageable goal, you will ease the tension of other worries. For example:  If you worry about your grades because of a new sport activity, you can make a goal to increase your studying by 20 minutes per night.  This will give you the feeling of control.

Let go of things you cannot control.
Make a mental note of things you are currently worrying about that you cannot directly control.  Make a promise to yourself to limit the time you think about those things.  Some people and some things are not going to change easily, regardless of your efforts.  

Expect the best outcome by using the power of positive thinking. 
Imagine the things that worry you working out for the best.  Play it like a movie in your mind.  It cannot hurt to imagine the best possible scenario rather than imagining the worst, which we do so often.

Follow up Craft 

After going over these important strategies, you might want to try this Self-Control Circle Activity to reinforce this information.  Students will choose one of ten designs to color.  After coloring, they will cut out the circles and attach string for hanging up as a display.

End Poor Hygiene with Students Once and for All

Talking about hygiene with your students is never easy.  Trying to throw hints never works because they can't smell themselves and usually have no idea that they smell.  Every year, teachers ask me to address this issue with specific students.  Although I don't mind having individual conversations with students who are missing the mark on good hygiene, I like to start off with a group discussion.  I've struggled with finding fresh new ways to address this issue with students.  This year, I decided to turn my discussion points into a game that students can play in small groups. 

My goal is to use humor to break the ice and make it easier to have those tough conversations.  The discussion cards have real world advice to get students to start thinking about their own habits.
Click HERE to download the game.

5 Days to Reduce Teacher Burnout

It must be that time of year.  State testing is over.  Convincing students that we still have work to do is getting increasingly difficult.  It's dig deep time.

Good students are getting detention.  The sweetest teachers are cussing.  The principal is not looking anyone in the eye.  The financial secretary is hiding in her office with the door locked.  Parents are calling with complaints and I am wondering why the year doesn't just end already! 

At my school, we spend the week after testing decompressing and educating staff about the importance of the little things in life that keep us going physically and emotionally.   We know that if teachers can model a refreshing happy attitude, it will trickle down to the students.   With a different theme each day and a small daily treat, we slowly unwind from what may be the most stressful week of the year.

1.  Mindful Monday
On this day, we reflect on our mindset and how it affects our reality.  Having a positive attitude about stress is more helpful than actually reducing stress, according to Stanford Psychologists.  I like to put growth mindset coloring sheets on the tables along with a sound machine with spa music.  This year, we had a local chiropractor give ten minute massages all day in exchange for having flyers in our lounge.

2.  Tranquil Tuesday
On this day, we look at multiple ways to calm ourselves through breathing and relaxing activities.  Local spas send us coupons for massages and salon services.

3.  Wellness Wednesday
On this day, we concentrate on nutrition and exercise.  This is a great opportunity for a jeans and sneakers day.  Local health clubs and nutritional service reps send us coupons and flyers for their businesses.  Organizing an after school exercise class is always a bonus.

4.  Thankful Thursday
On this day, we focus on our blessings.  Gratitude is linked to stress reduction.  I like to place "I am thankful for" coloring sheets on the tables.

5.  Fun Friday
On this day, we let loose and discover many different ways to laugh more.  We recommend funny books, movies, and activities that will keep us in stitches.  A large group of us even booked tickets to see Eddie B. Comedy, a teacher turned comedian who knows the struggle. Organizing an after school potluck is on my agenda for next year's Stress busters Week.

 The week would not have been complete without a youtube loop of Gerry Brooks and Eddie B Comedy streaming in the lounge.

Thank you for reading about our week full of self care.  
Click to download the

Digital Footprint


What is a digital footprint?

 Your digital footprint includes all of the information about your online activity including shopping habits, check-in locations, pictures, comments, posts,  web browsing history and any other information posted by you or others about you. 

Did you know?

  • Colleges look at your social media history.
  • Businesses look at your social media history when you apply for a job.
  • Anyone can easily steal your information and pictures to create a fake account.
  • Nothing is ever truly deleted from cyberspace.
  • Cyber bullying can be punishable by law.
  • Sending or receiving indecent pictures of yourself is considered child pornography by law  if you are under 18

These days, it's hard to avoid a large digital footprint.  So it's important to be sure that the things that you say online are always positive.  Even when you are sharing something privately between a few people, remember that it could end up being seen by many more.  IF there is anyone in the world who you wouldn't want to read something that you post, don't post it. 

Download this free self-assessment to evaluate the size of your digital footprint. 
FREE Self-Assessment

You can download the full lesson here:
 Social Media and Internet Safety Lesson