Steps to Take For an Easier Back to School

Steps to Take For an Easier Back to School

Written by Casey Boehm, OEA First Grade Teacher

Summer means free time and warm weather, but when you’re a teacher school to-dos and tasks can easily sneak back into your mind.

The summer months are a much-needed time to rest and recharge, and you should do just that! But if you want to start preparing for next school year, there are small steps you can take for a much easier back to school season.

Check out these three important tips on how you can relax and feel prepared for the upcoming school year:


1. Start to prep for August now!

This tip may sound daunting, but I promise it’s not. Each year I make myself a folder or bag of materials just for back to school- trust me, it will be a gift to yourself once August rolls around.

My “back to school bag” has items like the papers that I’ve sent home at open house, beginning of the year forms, and my first week of school activities.

When August rolls around and you can finally get back into my classroom, you can focus on getting it set up properly, labeling items with a new class list, and a million other things. When you pull out your bag of items you can quickly make copies and have a reminder of what you have sent home in the past; it is a huge time saver!


2. Keep an open mind about online learning.

Fall 2020 is full of unknowns and it will likely look and feel a lot different than past school years. Over the summer months, remember to be patient with your district and state and focus on what you can control, like getting more familiar with online learning.

One way you can learn and grow your comfort level with online learning is to join a Facebook group that relates to the Learning Management System (Google Classroom™, Canvas, etc.) your school uses, or a group that matches your grade level. Facebook groups are a great space to share resources and ask questions with other educators. It’s a good idea to join a few and find the one that best fits your needs; not all Facebook groups are created equal. NEA has a group all about navigating the changes in education. (If you are an early career educator in Ohio, be sure to check out the ONE Connects group.)


3. Rest and relax!

Easier said than done, I know. Summer goes by so quickly. Be sure you make the most of it and try not to stress out about the fall. When I am feeling overcome with thoughts and to-dos, I make a list. I write down all the things on my mind- the things I am worried about for next school year, the lessons I want to teach, the things I want to do this summer, etc. Once my thoughts are collected, I have an easier time relaxing. Just remember, all of these things are important, but don’t let them take up the summer!

After you write down your stressors and are feeling good, take some time for yourself and unwind. There are thousands of ways you can relax, but some of my favorites are evening walks with friends, bonfires, reading by the pool, and traveling! Be sure to leave a comment with your favorite way to relax over the summer!


Be sure to make the most of your summer by following these tips, so you are prepared for the best back to school!


Guest Blog


Casey Boehm is a first-grade teacher in northwest Ohio. Casey is passionate about using technology in the classroom and sharing ideas for organization. Find her on social media @OrganizeandEducate

Teachers: Finding Balance Over the Summer Months

Teachers: Finding Balance Over the Summer Months

Written by Casey Boehm, OEA First Grade Teacher

Finding balance is the key to having a restful summer so that you can be recharged and ready to tackle a new school year in the fall.

Teachers’ schedules are busy, even during the summer. Between preparing things for next school year, doing tasks around the house that you’ve put off because of school, working another job, etc. finding balance may seem difficult. At the end of the day, the important thing is finding time for yourself between those tasks so you are still able to rest and enjoy your summer.


Create a routine for yourself this summer.

Routine and structure look different for everyone, but this helps me find balance throughout the entire year. For example, my daily routine varies during the summer months, but I know I feel better when I have a flexible schedule in place. I start my day with a cup of coffee and do something from my to-do list each day (most days-  let’s be honest, some days were made for Netflix and PJs).

To stay productive and keep yourself in a routine, create a weekly list every Sunday to feel prepared for the week ahead. Start by creating a meal plan and then add in non-negotiables for each day (appointments, etc.). From there, you can go back and add in other items as needed. This can help you stay on track even when life doesn’t have a schedule!

If this is something you think would help you find balance in your day, you can download my printable template for free here or check out my vlog all about using Google Keep™ to create digital lists.


Enough about lists! Summer is also the best time of year to rest and relax.

No matter how small, try to take some time each day to do at least one thing a day for yourself. (If you need to, add this to your list.) This summer may look different with the current health guidelines, but there are still so many things you can do to rest and relax. Turn off your school brain, enjoy the summer with your family and friends, work on hobbies, do the things that you don’t have the time to do during the school year, and most importantly treat yourself.


Lastly, find balance this summer by remembering to practice self-care.

One of the best things you can do to care for yourself mentally is to clean out your social media. Personally, this is one of my favorite ways to care for myself and make sure I stay surrounded by positivity! Once or twice a year, I clean out my friends and other accounts that I follow on social media. This helps me ensure that I am surrounding myself with accounts that are bringing things I need to my feed- not negativity. If an account or friend stresses me out, I unfollow so I see less of their posts, or I unfriend altogether.

My favorite uplifting Instagram account is PositivelyPresent; check out Dani’s Instagram page for beautiful images that inspire, validate, and motivate. Dani’s page also has links to amazing other content.


Positive Messages

Original artwork © Dani DiPirro @PositivelyPresent


All in all, take the time you need to make the most of your summer. Establish a routine for yourself, and don’t forget to take time for you!

You can do anything, but not everything. Balance is key. Happy summer!


Guest Blog


Casey Boehm is a first-grade teacher in northwest Ohio. Casey is passionate about using technology in the classroom and sharing ideas for organization. Find her on social media @OrganizeandEducate

A Summer Reading List for Teachers

A Summer Reading List for Teachers

As a teacher, at this point you know summer vacation is practically a myth. Between lesson planning, reviewing curriculum, PD seminars, virtual meetings, etc. it can be hard to find time to relax. Even on the few days you aren’t planning and dealing with the uncertainty of the year ahead due to COVID-19, the thought of school is probably still on your mind.

Starting a (mostly) PD summer reading list is the best of both worlds, you can sit back and relax with a book, while still working on and developing your skills – whether you find yourself back in a classroom or teaching virtually in the fall.

Here are some books that should definitely be on your reading list this summer.


1. “I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids”

One day, third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz asked her students to fill-in-the-blank in this sentence: “I wish my teacher knew _____.” The results astounded her. Some answers were humorous, others were heartbreaking-all were profoundly moving and enlightening. The results opened her eyes to the need for educators to understand the unique realities their students face in order to create an open, safe, and supportive place in the classroom. When Schwartz shared her experience online, #IWishMyTeacherKnew became an immediate worldwide viral phenomenon. Schwartz’s book tells the story of #IWishMyTeacherKnew, including many students’ emotional and insightful responses, and ultimately provides an invaluable guide for teachers, parents, and communities.

books for first year teachers


2. “Educated: A Memoir”

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far if there was still a way home.

the best book for teachers 2020


3. “The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students”

Based on a collaboration dating back nearly a decade, the authors of The Behavior Code–a behavioral analyst and a child psychiatrist–reveal their systematic approach for deciphering causes and patterns of difficult student behaviors and matching them with proven strategies that get students back on track academically. This book includes user-friendly worksheets and other helpful resources for applying the authors’ approach. Teaching is an art, but it’s one that can be improved with science. Based on what we have learned in the field of psychology, The Behavior Code gives teachers the tools to transform the behavior patterns of some of their most challenging students. By using this essential book, teachers–instead of punishing or writing off troubled students–can get them onto a path for success.

teachers summer reading list


4. “See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers”

Teaching is tough. And teachers, like the rest of the population, aren’t perfect. Yet good teaching happens, and great teachers continue to inspire and educate generations of students. See Me After Class helps those great teachers of the future to survive the classroom long enough to become great. Fueled by hundreds of hilarious–and sometimes shocking–tales from the teachers who lived them, Elden provides tips and strategies that deal head-on with the challenges that aren’t covered in new-teacher training. Lessons can go wrong. Parents may yell at you. Sunday evenings will sometimes be accompanied by the dreaded countdown to Monday morning. As a veteran teacher, Elden offers funny, practical, and honest advice, to help teachers walk through the doors of their classrooms day after day with clarity, confidence…and sanity!

Summer reading for teachers


5. “Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves”

Becoming a skilled anti-bias teacher is a journey. With this volume’s practical guidance, you’ll grow in your ability to identify, confront, and eliminate barriers of prejudice, misinformation, and bias about specific aspects of personal and social identity. Most important, you’ll find tips for helping staff and children learn to respect each other, themselves, and all people. Over the last three decades, educators across the nation and around the world have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in anti-bias work. The result is a richer and more nuanced articulation of what is important in anti-bias education. Revolving around four core goals―identity, diversity, justice, and activism―individual chapters focus on culture and language, racial identity, family structures, gender identity, economic class, different abilities, and more.

Reading List for Teachers


6. “Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator”

Based on Dave Burgess’s popular “Outrageous Teaching” and “Teach Like a PIRATE” seminars, this book offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help you to increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator. You’ll learn how to: -Tap into and dramatically increase your passion as a teacher -Develop outrageously engaging lessons that draw students in like a magnet -Establish rapport and a sense of camaraderie in your classroom -Transform your class into a life-changing experience for your students This groundbreaking inspirational manifesto contains over 30 hooks specially designed to captivate your class and 170 brainstorming questions that will skyrocket your creativity. Once you learn the Teach Like a PIRATE system, you’ll never look at your role as an educator the same again.

what to read in the summer


7. “If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students: Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers”

Packed with words of wisdom and inspiration, this is one book no administrator or teacher should be without. Dr. Neila Connors presents practical tips to improve school climate, communicate with parents and students, teach to the standards, and make a difference in students’ lives. All this in an enjoyable, easy-to-read format, If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students will leave you laughing your way to a more successful school year.

books for teachers


8. “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds—from the infamous “kidney theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony—draw their power from the same six traits. Made to Stick will transform the way you communicate. It’s a fast-paced tour of success stories (and failures): the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher whose simulation actually prevented racial prejudice. Provocative, eye-opening, and often surprisingly funny, Made to Stick shows us the vital principles of winning ideas—and tells us how we can apply these rules to making our own messages stick.

What teachers should read


9. “Start With Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness”

Start with Joy: Designing Literacy Learning for Student Happiness links what we know from the science of happiness with what we know about effective literacy instruction. By examining characters in the books they read, children develop empathy for others and come to understand that we all struggle, and we all love. When given a choice about what to write, children express hopes, fears, and reactions to life’s experiences. Literacy learning is full of opportunities for students to learn tools to live a happy life. This book honors the adventure that learning is meant to be. By infusing school days with happiness, teachers can support children as they become stronger readers, writers, and thinkers, while also helping them learn that strength comes from challenge, and joy comes from leading a purposeful life.

Teachers reading in the summer



10. “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do”

How do we talk about bias? How do we address racial and gender disparities and inequities? What role do our institutions play in creating, maintaining, and magnifying those inequities? What role do we play? With a perspective that is at once scientific, investigative, and informed by personal experience, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt offers us the language and courage we need to face one of the biggest and most troubling issues of our time. She exposes bias at all levels of society—in our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Yet she also offers us tools to address it. Eberhardt shows us how we can be vulnerable to bias but not doomed to live under its grip.

books to read for teachers



11. “What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America”

During the 2016 school year, innovation expert Ted Dintersmith took an unprecedented trip across America. He visited all fifty states, seeking to raise awareness about the urgent need to reimagine education to prepare students for the career and citizenship demands of an increasingly-innovative world. As he traveled, though, Dintersmith met innovative teachers all across the country — teachers doing extraordinary things in ordinary settings, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously.  Each day, these students are engaged and inspired by their teachers, who in turn help children develop purpose, agency, essential skillsets and mindsets, and deep knowledge. The insights of these teachers offer a vision of what school could be, and a model for how to help schools achieve it.

summer books for teachers



12. “Reading the Rainbow: LQBTQ- Inclusive Literacy Instruction in the Elementary Classroom”

The authors show how expanding the English language arts curriculum to include representations of LGBTQ people and themes will benefit all students, allowing them to participate in a truly inclusive classroom. The text describes three different approaches that address the limitations, pressures, and possibilities that teachers in various contexts face around these topics. The authors make clear what LGBTQ-inclusive literacy teaching can look like in practice, including what teachers might say and how students might respond. “Reading the Rainbow” is designed to be interactive, providing readers with opportunities to consider these new approaches with respect to their own classrooms and traditional literacy instruction.

pd Reading list



13. “Teaching to Empower: Taking Action to Foster Student Agency, Self-Confidence, and Collaboration”

We want students to master academic standards, and we want them to be confident, adaptive, and socially responsible. Above all, we want them to find meaning and satisfaction in their lives. Achieving these goals requires a concerted focus on the social-emotional skills that empower students in and beyond the classroom. In Teaching to Empower, Debbie Zacarian and Michael Silverstone explore what an empowered student looks like in our increasingly diverse contemporary schools and prompt educators to examine their own relationship to empowerment. The book’s evidence-based strategies and authentic examples show you how to foster an inclusive culture of agency, self-confidence, inclusion, and collaboration that will give each of your students—regardless of race, culture, language, socioeconomic status, abilities, sexuality, or gender—the opportunity, responsibility, and tools to become an active learner, thoughtful community member, and engaged global citizen.

Summer Reading


What are you reading this summer?


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Easy Tools for Your Students’ Digital Portfolios

Easy Tools for Your Students’ Digital Portfolios

Performance-based assessment is rapidly becoming popular.  Student portfolios play a large role in this method of assessment and tell a story of student learning, achievement, and growth.  Student-created digital portfolios help educators, and students, reflect on assignments, effort, and improvements that can be made.

The following digital student portfolio tools will assist you and your students in creating meaningful, 21st Century portfolios. Here are 6 easy tools for your students to use to create their digital portfolios.

Kidblog – Safely and securely publish student writing, audio, visual, or video projects. Simple to use and kid-friendly. The first 30 days are free.  After your trial, you can choose memberships of $44 per year or $9 per month.

Padlet –  Similar to a piece of paper, Padlet allows students to safely create a post of any kind. Padlet is flexible. Use it as a portfolio, a platform to blog and communicate, upload files, or simply make lists. The first 30 days are free. Teacher plans are $99 per year or $12 per month.

Evernote – Take notes, organize, archive, upload files, share ideas, and sync with multiple devices. The basic plan is free, and yearly paid plans offer more options and storage (Plus = $35/year and Premium = $70/year).

Pathbrite – Free interactive showcase portfolios. Upload student work using simple drag-and-drop tools.

Three Ring – Free for students, teachers, and parents. Allows users to securely upload student work, document, organize, comment, and access from anywhere.

VoiceThread – A single educator license will cost you $79 per year or $15 per month.  This secure web-based program permits users to upload images, videos, documents, and presentations.  Additionally, users may comment on one another’s work using any mix of text, microphone, webcam, telephone, or audio file.


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We Protect AmeriCAN Heroes – Together We CAN

day with firefighte


Together We CAN.

During these trying times, it’s important to know that you are not alone. You have a community of people behind you, encouraging and fighting for you.

Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals are leading the fight on the frontlines against COVID-19, stepping up heroically in the face of incredibly long hours, heartbreaking care cases, and increased personal risk. Peace officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency personnel are on the frontlines risking their own lives to keep our communities safe and in working order during this public health crisis. While teachers, school administrators, and education support professionals have completely changed their teaching strategies to accommodate students so they can stay safe at home and finish out the rest of the school year virtually.

We have never been more thankful for our everyday heroes than we are right now.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned our daily lives upside down, but when we come together as a community- as neighbors, as family, as friends -we are unstoppable. We CAN get through this and we WILL. Together we CAN.


We’d like to extend an extra special thanks to the Firefighters, Police Officers, Teachers, and Nurses who took the time to participate in our Together We CAN video. It is a privilege to hear about your daily experiences throughout the pandemic, firsthand. We appreciate your courage and dedication to helping keep us safe now, more than ever. Thank you.


This video is brought to you by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or Be sure to check out our Heroes series at or visit California Casualty’s YouTube Channel.

The Heroes Video Series was filmed and produced by Wide Awake Films.
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At California Casualty, our mission is to provide trusted, personalized auto and home insurance protection.  exclusively for educators, law enforcement, nurses and firefighters—those who protect, strengthen and enhance the quality of life in American communities.

Removing Ads and Distractions From Websites and Videos

Removing Ads and Distractions From Websites and Videos

Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in education.


Have you ever shown a video to the class only to be bombarded by ads and other distracting content? Sometimes, that distracting content can be inappropriate for school, and in some situations, get you into trouble! Educators know to view any videos prior to a class viewing to evaluate its appropriateness, but have you ever thought about what else is happening on the page or video you are watching? Fortunately, there is something you can do about it.

We’ve put together a collection of 6 free resources you can use to remove and block advertisements and other distractions from web pages and videos. These helpful resources allow you to safely show videos without worry, and they’re all simple to use.


AdBlock is one of the most popular ad blockers worldwide with more than 60 million users on Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge as well as Android. It removes ads from YouTube videos and blocks websites and search ads. Easy to install and free to use within Google Chrome. Perfect for student research. Students can become easily distracted by advertisements and videos. AdBlock helps to keep students focused.


NicerTube gets rid of all the fluff, distractions, and questionable content around YouTube videos. Copy YouTube video URL, paste into the required field, choose a background, and create your safe video. NicerTube generates a new link to your video. All for free! Safely watch and share YouTube and Vimeo videos without advertisements and other unwanted distractions such as annotation so that they can be viewed safely without the hassle of first having to download and convert videos with YouTube Downloader. To view a video ad-free, copy and paste the video’s URL into’s safe-link generator. The site will automatically send you to the safe version of your video. You may also choose a title and description of the video.


ViewPure allows users to watch YouTube videos without comments or other distractions. ViewPure removes all comments and related videos, allowing videos to be watched without distractions, or more likely, without “inappropriate content.” It is simple and free! No need to copy and paste a URL. Simply drag and drop the “Purify” button into your toolbar. Click the “Purify” button when you are on a YouTube page to remove ads and other distracting content.


Quietube offers the ability to watch videos without the distractions. To watch web videos without the comments and other unnecessary junk, just drag the Quietube button to your browser’s bookmarks bar. Supports videos from YouTube, Viddler, and Vimeo. The site seems primitive and is only one page, however, it gets the job done!


TubeChop allows you to easily chop a funny or interesting section from any YouTube video and share it. This is a great, free tool if you want to show part of a video. Find the video you want to chop, select and cut the video, and share it. There are no ads or other distractions.


We want to hear from you! What resources do you use to remove ads and other distracting content from videos and websites? Let us know in the comment section.


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