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.  Click for a few faculty morale ideas. 

7. Fellowship

Provide times for staff gatherings outside of school or arrange a pot luck during the school day.

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

Friend or Frenemy

The line between friend and frenemy can be hard to clearly define.  Teens and tweens need to educate themselves on how to spot a toxic friendship and how to identify healthy relationships.
Without fail, my office is flooded every year with reports of mean girls and friendships gone wrong.  This behavior begins in elementary school and continues well into middle school.  I created a small group friendship lesson that educates girls on how to self assess their own behaviors, evaluate their friendships, and begin healing or moving away from some of those relationships.
Using a "friendship scale," girls begin to see that everyone can move back and forth along the spectrum of healthy and unhealthy behaviors.  The idea is to recognize that and move towards the healthy side.
Click to see full lesson: http://bit.ly/2gMP4GL

Once they see that friendship skills are on a continuum, they realize that they have room for improvement.  I encourage girls to work on their friendships before burning bridges with friends.  If an attempt is not made by the other friend, then it is time to move on and seek friends who are willing to put in the effort stay healthy and happy.  

Sample practice sheet from the "Friend or Frenemy" group counseling lesson on TPT.  

 Learning how to spot toxic relationships with friends is an important stepping stone of development. These are skills that will be used as they get older and begin to have romantic relationships.

Friendship Lessons: http://bit.ly/2mdrP82

Drama is draining.  Girls begin to realize that friendship doesn't have to be hard.  It should be easy and care-free, without fear of "messing up."

Click to see my "Friendship Quiz Show" from TPT 


Let's Talk about Suicide

Nobody wants to talk about it.  Nobody thinks it will happen to their friend or family member.  Nobody thinks a ten year old would do it.  Nobody would ever suspect that their happy, amazingly funny friend has thought about it throughout their life and that humor has been their only way to survive.  Nobody wants to think that it is the third leading cause of death in our youth.

ONE in FIVE teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually.  (CDC)

Unless you have experienced the dark side, the dark thoughts, or the feeling of complete and utter hopelessness, you might not ever consider how dangerous and dark the mind can become.

Suicide is a preventable killer.  Knowing the signs can and will save lives.  You just have to believe that it DOES happen and it CAN happen to people that you love who you would never suspect would do such a thing.

Did you know that most people that attempt suicide had told more than one person that they were going to do it, but those people didn't believe them, or didn't know what to do with the information?   Did you know that when someone decides to kill themselves, they may begin to seem happy again and that this is actually a very dangerous time period?  Let's talk about what to look for and the things that we can do to help, to save a life.

As a middle school counselor, I have seen my fair share of children with suicidal ideations.   Usually these students don't just show up in my office one day to let me know that they need help.  When a student is feeling this level of hopelessness, they really don't think help is possible.  Therefore, they often don't seek help.  Often, with their impulsive thinking, they come up with the only solution that they feel will offer relief, which is, sadly, suicide.  That is when PEERS become critical.  Their peers are the ones who are receiving these red flags and hearing the kinds of things that would indicate suicidal thoughts.   Our youth need to be trained to follow up with their friends and TAKE them to an adult for help, even at the risk of the friend getting mad at them.  Often the one thing that saves a life is that the friend was brave enough to tell an adult that actually went through with getting the resources needed to help the family.  I applaud every child who has ever stepped into my office and was brave enough to say "My friend may need help."  This statement is usually followed by, "I promised I wouldn't tell anyone, but I am scared he/she will do it if I don't do something."   These brave kids are my heroes.


"It's just not worth it anymore."  "Nothing seems to matter."  "Why are we even here?"  "Nobody really cares."

"They won't have to worry about me for much longer."  "Maybe everybody would be better off without me."  "The world would be better off if I wasn't in it."

If someone is diagnosed with or has signs of depression, getting medical attention is crucial, because depression alone can cause suicidal thoughts.

Telling friends what songs they would like to be played at their funeral.  Discussing caskets and flowers for their funeral.

A funny person becomes sullen.  An "A" student is suddenly failing classes.  An athlete stops going to practice.  They quit activities they once enjoyed.  They no longer hang out with friends.  A loud person becomes quiet.

Giving away prized possessions and not caring about their things anymore.  Making sentimental gifts representing their friendship.  (out of the blue, not for a birthday or special occasion.)

No longer concerned with looks or hygiene.  Not worrying about their looks as much as before.

Writing letters to multiple friends telling them what they mean to them.  Becoming sentimental with friends and giving away tokens of appreciation.  Calling friends, old and new, just to say they care and how much they have meant to them.

Sometimes, but not always, self mutilation (in a variety of forms such as "cutting") can be a precursor to suicide.  It can be a way to "practice" for the real thing.  If somebody has attempted suicide in the past and failed, they are more likely to be successful the next time.  Never assume that it was a cry for attention.  Any cry for attention is concerning and should be addressed.  It's easy to want to say that somebody is just a "drama queen" but even still, this is a big red flag.  If they are begging for attention, they need it.

Once a person has decided to go through with suicide and have a well made plan, the sense of dread of life temporarily leaves.  They have found a peace with it and begin making rounds to tell everyone they love good-bye.

Other things to consider:

I just wanted to add a note about anti-depressive medications.  While these have been proven to be helpful to many people, they can also have the opposite affect, especially the first couple of months.  Please watch your loved ones closely if they start on or change mood medications.

Tweens and Teens are especially vulnerable to suicide because of their impulsive thinking and the tendency to have faulty or distorted thinking patterns such as "catastrophic thinking" and "all or nothing" ways of looking at the world.
The elderly are at risk for a variety of reasons.  Loss of dignity and loss of multiple loved ones over the years can cause depression which is one of the leading causes of suicide.

I tell students that even if they just have a tiny suspicion, that nothing is too silly to report.  We have multiple ways at our school to report these types of concerns.  Our district has a "text-a-tip" phone number for students to make anonymous reports.  We also have a lock box that students can place notes in that only counselors have the keys to open.  I do a suicide awareness training early in the school year.  We get quite a few concerned students coming to the office immediately following our presentation.  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge SAVES lives.

If you want more information about suicide, please visit The Jason Foundation.  They have a 24 hour suicide hotline and helpful resources.

I wish I could say that I wasn't personally affected by suicide.  I hope for you that you never have to experience this type of loss.  One way to cope is to empower others to recognize the signs.

Concerned about someone or yourself?  

Take an Online Screening.

More about The Jason Foundation:
Knowledge is power.  The Jason Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of youth suicide.  Jason Flatt was a young man who told many friends that he was going to kill himself.  Tragically, nothing was done about it.  His family decided to start this non-profit organization in his memory. The Jason Flatt Act has now passed in 19 states, mandating educators to complete 2 hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training each year in order to be able to be licensed to teach.  With a simple online request, they will send you free lesson plans, DVD’s with a powerful video of scenarios, powerpoint presentations on a CD, and cards with a 24 hour 1-800 number to hand out to all students after the lesson.   Free professional development resources for teachers is also provided.

Visit: http://bit.ly/2mcIoQA