Back to School

Nutraloaf: Why Teachers HATE Professional Development

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

An Open Letter to Administrators

If you haven’t heard of Nutraloaf, it’s basically a substance given to prisoners who haven’t made good choices.  I’ve read that it contains fruit, meat, grains, and veggies all ground up and packed into a warm, moist brick and served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! It looks gross and probably tastes worse.  Prisoners complain, but what choice do they have?  Officials say it’s food and provides proper nutrition to keep prisoners healthy. They’re required to feed prisoners, and Nutraloaf does just that.  End of story.

So, what does this have to do with teacher professional development?  Before the kids come back, teachers spend a week participating in icebreakers, listening to repetitive trainings, and completing random tasks that feel more like busy work.  Most of us hate these days.  Why?  Because it’s Nutraloaf.  It meets the requirements of PD, but is less than appetizing to our teacher brains.  It just isn’t meaningful or relevant.  Teachers don’t hate professional development.  They hate professional development that wastes their time.  

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

The vast majority of us work hard to improve our practice everyday.  We want to do what’s best for our students, and as new instructional strategies are developed and new research is published, we want to know about it and try it out with our kids to maximize the student experience.  Unfortunately, we’re still spending hours talking about learning styles (not really a thing) and being told how to implement district non-negotiables such as posting objectives and teaching the new Pearson curriculum “with fidelity.”  

How do we fix this?  A week is too much.  Truly.  Towards the end, my excitement about starting the year is gone.  I’m overwhelmed and only remember a few things.  The new requirements weigh heavy on my teaching soul and I want to go back to lazy summer days!  Here’s what needs to happen that week before the kids come.

Day 1–Schedules and procedures training

Day 2–Work in my classroom

Day 3–Work in my classroom

Day 4–Plan with colleagues

Day 5–Plan my personal lessons and prep for the first week

But don’t teachers need to learn new things?  Of course!  So let’s try something different.  

First, SPREAD IT OUT.  Let’s embed PD into our practice throughout the year.  Perhaps a day per six weeks without students, where we focus on what makes us better.  Give the kids a Friday off, and host a helpful PD session that day.

Host a training on Saturday, but give us that Monday off so we still have a weekend.  This way, as we see what our kids need, we can learn how to address those needs with meaningful PD experiences.

Second, PUT TEACHERS IN CHARGE OF THEIR OWN GROWTH.  We want our students to be self-directed learners, so why isn’t this encouraged in teachers?  Let us plan what we need to learn and how best to learn it.  I personally struggled with a class that was difficult to manage this year.  I spent a few hours reading new strategies and watching Teach Like a Champion videos.  It was relative and had a direct impact on my students.  Give me credit for this.  I’ll gladly write a short reflection.    What about book studies?  Let us choose a book and chat with our colleagues about the new things we’ve learned and how we’re trying them with our kids.  Offer a variety of trainings throughout the year and let us choose what we’re interested in.  Key word: differentiation.  A fifth grade science teacher does not have the same needs as a 1st grade teacher, just as a veteran of 20 years does not need the same training as a brand new teacher.  Let us take advantage of the multitude of PD available online.  Many of us are doing it anyway, so why should we still have to sit through a week of mediocre activities at the start of a new year?  

Third, BRING IN EXPERTS.  Pool resources with other schools and districts and bring in leaders in the field of education like Page Keeley, Donalyn Miller, Lisa Van Gemert, Gretchen Bernabei.  Or put the funds in place for us to go see them and spend time at state and national conferences.  

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

Finally, TREAT US LIKE PROFESSIONALS.  I swear, if I have to walk around and do another human bingo about who has 3 cats or went to the beach this summer, I’m going to explode!  I doubt they do these activities when lawyers, medical professionals, and engineers gather.  Limit, or ban, stupid icebreakers and busy work that fill our days.  I don’t need to make an anchor chart of the non-negotiables I learned about at today’s training, nor will I benefit from you reading PowerPoint slides to me VERBATIM.  Ugh!

teacher humor, professional development, back to school, principals, staff development, workshop, workshops, trainings from The Pensive Sloth

It’s time for PD to adapt and venture into the 21st century. Our classrooms are moving forward, why is teacher PD still the same as it was 30 years ago?  We’re hungry, we’ve made good choices, and we deserve better than Nutraloaf professional development.  

–The Pensive Sloth

Looking for back to school humor?  Find out what teachers are REALLY thinking!


Oh Yay! Back to School.

Back to School Teacher Humor from The Penisve Sloth

Yes. It’s that time. Back to school season. I honestly love the beginning of the year and getting to meet my kiddos, but I’m not quite ready to start setting the alarm every day.


In honor of Lesson Deli–my bloggy buddy group–reaching 1000 fans on Facebook, four of my best-selling resources are only $1.00 this weekend.  If you teach about insect metamorphosis, persuasive text, financial literacy and taxes, or weathering, erosion, and deposition…stock up now!

Visit TPT and use the #bestfansever hashtag to search for other great resources on sale for a buck.  Thanks for being the #bestfansever.

#bestfansever sale July 2016 Lesson Deli

Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway: Do This, Not That Tips for Teachers

5th Grade Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway August 2015DO THIS:  Assign your students numbers.

NOT THAT: Label everything (cubbies, mailboxes, lockers, etc.) with student names.

My big tip for heading back to school is to assign your students numbers at the beginning of the year.  Here’s why:

FIRST:  You can easily number your student mailboxes, cubbies, folders, and more and not have to re-label everything each year.  It saves a lot of time!  Plus, you don’t have to wait for your class list to label stuff.  If you teach upper elementary, consider using roman numerals.  Then students HAVE to learn what those mean!  Imagine NOT having to peel name stickers off of everything at the end of the year and instead just putting up those circle dot stickers they sell at Walmart once every few years.

Colored Dot Stickers for Teachers

You can get these guys at Walmart for about $4.00. There’s tons of them in a pack and they are a lot cheaper than individual name tags.

SECOND:  Finding out who is missing an assignment is so much easier.  One of my classroom jobs is “paper manager.”  Their job is to collect all papers and put them in number order.  I teach students to write their number very large in the top left hand corner of every paper at the beginning of the year.  The paper managers can quickly find who is missing an assignment and gather it from the student.  If the assignment isn’t done, or a student is absent, the paper manager writes a list on a sticky note and puts it on the stack before paper clipping the bundle of assignments together.

Teacher Humor Teacher Meme Lost Assignments

THIRD:  By about week three I have my numbered list memorized.  It helps a ton during emergency drills and field trips.  I can call my class list out from memory to see if anyone is missing.  Yes, most of the time I have my gradebook and can look at my list, but if I’m ever without it, I’m fine!

You might be saying, “But I want my classroom to be personal.  Students should have their names on cubbies!”  I have used this system with success for over a decade.  Even with first graders!  A veteran teacher shared this tip with me and I’m quite grateful!  Some students truly want their name on stuff and here is my suggestion:  Let them!  Students can decorate an index card with their name and use a piece of painter’s tape to affix the name to the cubby/locker/desk.

Now for the giveaway stuff… you’ve worked hard setting up that classroom!  Would you like to win a $25 Amazon gift card from The Pensive Sloth to spoil yourself (or buy something for your classroom)?  Of course you would!  Click the link below to be taken to Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.

My giveaway terms:  To be eligible to win, you must be a teacher or homeschooling parent in the US or Canada.  Verification may be required.  Once a winner is chosen and contacted, he/she has 24 hours to respond by email.  If a response isn’t received in the time frame, a new winner will be selected and contacted.  If something seems fishy, I reserve the right to use Rafflecopter to select a new winner.  Only one $25 Amazon gift card will be given away.


More great giveaway stuff…Click the NEXT STOP image below to see what Miss Stefany has to share and giveaway!  There are nine teacher bloggers in this hop, each giving away something fantastic, so don’t stop here.  Keep going!  You can do it!  After you hop through, you’ll land at the Lesson Deli page where you can enter to win a $100 gift card to TPT.

5th Grade Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway August 2015

Click the NEXT STOP button to head over to Interactive Learning with Miss Stefany!

My Classroom Isn’t Cute

Back to School Classroom Decor Ecard Teacher Humor from The Pensive SlothWith all the photos of cute classrooms making the rounds on Pinterest, I’ve given some thought to what my classroom looks like. It isn’t cute and I’m OK with that. It’s organized, most of the bins match (because I only buy the same semi-indestructible ones), and my students and I can find what we need quickly. But it isn’t decorated. I don’t really have a theme. And I don’t think cute is an adjective anyone would use to describe it.

I guess the reason I’m writing this post is two-fold. First, for those teachers out there that don’t have cute classrooms, I want you to know that it is OK. You’re in good company. There are plenty of us in the teaching world—even in elementary–with functional, student friendly rooms that don’t look like they came out of a teacher’s version of “Better Homes and Gardens.” The second reason for writing this post is a little more controversial. As professionals, how we spend our time and money setting up the classroom matters. It speaks volumes about what we hold important, and frankly it worries me when I see classrooms where more energy was placed into pulling off a jungle theme than building a classroom library.

Here’s why I don’t stress about decorating at the beginning of the year:

  1. BOOKS—If I have spare money, I use it buy books rather than decorations. In my classroom we call it “Book Christmas” when the Scholastic box arrives, and it’s a pretty big deal. Last semester I spent a small fortune building a cryptozoology section in the classroom library because my kids were crazy about bigfoot, aliens, vampires, ghosts, and monsters that year. I went to every Half Price Books within 60 miles of my house and wiped out their crypto collections. Right now I’m working to beef up my graphic novels tub, but that’s another post! Personally, I’d rather spend money to build readers than buy labels, borders, and notepads that match.
  1. FUNCTIONALITY—Everything in my classroom serves a purpose. Supply tubs have everything students need so we don’t lose instruction time during activities. The posters and anchor charts that line the room are relevant to what students are learning. Our classroom shelves hold tons of books, reference materials, and science supplies. There isn’t space for anything else.
  1. WE DECORATE TOGETHER–In fact, the walls are pretty bare when the students come in. I have a cursive alphabet chart up, but that’s about it. It’s our job as a class to fill that space with our learning. If you come back about 3 weeks later, it’s not bare anymore and students have ownership of what’s covering the walls.
  1. TIME—They say that we make time for what is important to us in life, and decorating is not at the top of my list. When it’s time to head back to school and set up the room, I revise systems so that my classroom will run more smoothly this year, or I plan and prep for lessons. In my mind, there’s more important things to do than put up colorful borders or paint all my tubs the same color.
  1. DISTRACTED STUDENTS—There are plenty of articles out there about how too much color and bling can take the focus away from learning for students who already struggle to pay attention. Check out this one from Scientific American. Food for thought! The article talks about kindergarteners. I teach upper elementary, but trust me, they get distracted too!

Now, if decorating is your thing and it makes you truly, deeply happy, then go for it. Just please don’t give the side eye to those of us who do things differently. We have our reasons.

And for you brand new teachers stepping into your very own classrooms for the first time, seeing blank walls and empty shelves, I offer this advice… Focus on the shelves first. If you’re lucky enough to have a little cash, buy a few books. Resist the urge to spend your hard earned money on jungle-themed décor.  Purchase the essentials, a few tubs, some desk supplies, anchor chart paper and markers. Make peace with your bare walls and know that they won’t be bare for long.

–The Pensive Sloth

Blasting Back to School: Giveaway and LITERAL Team Building STEM Activity

Blasting Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway from thelessondeli

Blasting Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway from thelessondeli

Are you ready for Back to School? I’m joining several other upper grade teachers to help you get ready for the next school year, and to give away some AWESOME prizes! You’ll have the opportunity to win something different on each blog in our group, so make sure that you visit the next blog in the blog hop at the bottom of this page. To enter to win the HUGE gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers, visit our group blog, Lesson Delicatessen. Make sure you hop through all the blogs to read all the great back to school tips and be entered to win over 20 different prizes!

UPDATE–Congratulations Cora B.!  You’ve won The Pensive Sloth’s Rafflecopter giveaway.  You should have received an email with instructions on claiming your prize.  Thanks to all who entered and hopped along.  Have a great beginning of the year!

School is just around the corner and in no time at all there will be 25 nervous, smiling, excited little people sitting in front of you.  Put some STEM into your first week back by having your upper elementary students engage in LITERAL team building.  Here’s how it works.

Put students in groups of 2-4 and give each group a stack of index cards.  You can start with 30 per group, but have many more available just in case!  Their goal is to work together to build a structure that is 10 inches tall using ONLY the index cards. No tape or glue! The catch is, on each card students must write something that their group has in common. You can add additional rules based on your class.  I love watching how as students want more cards to build with, they work hard to find creative things they have in common (even if it is that they all breathe oxygen).

Blasting Back To School Giveaway and Blog Hop Literal Team Building STEM Activity for 5th Grade

Back to School STEM Fun–Literal Team Building!

Before you start, I suggest making a chart of how to find things students have in common.  It seems like a simple idea, but sometimes our kiddos need encouragement.  Ideas include things you like, things you hate, places you’ve been, things you have done, family, pets, travel, games, sports, music, movies, etc.  The list could go on forever…

Thanks for stopping by.

–The Pensive Sloth

Enter The Pensive Sloth’s Rafflecopter giveaway by clicking the Rafflecopter link below.  I’m giving away $10 winner’s choice from my TPT store and a $20 gift card to Oriental Trading.  There are 4 ways to win.  Good luck!

Then…hop on over to Rockin’ Resources for more back to school ideas and a chance to win some writing resources!

Rockin Resources

And don’t forget to visit The Lesson Delicatessen for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers!

THE PENSIVE SLOTH’S GIVEAWAY TERMS AND CONDITIONS–This giveaway runs August 4-10, 2014 and includes up to $10 of products from The Pensive Sloth’s TPT page and a $20 e-gift certificate from Oriental Trading.  Once a winner is chosen at random through Rafflecopter, the winner will have 24 hours to claim his/her prize.  If the winner does not claim the prize within 24 hours, I will spin again and contact the next person.  Please feel free to contact me at if you have questions.  Good luck!

Introduce Yourself to Students with a Back To School Quiz

Are you looking for a fun way to introduce yourself to your students?  Try a quiz.  I’ve done this with my 5th graders for the last 5 years and it is super simple and tons of fun.  When I was young, I remember having many questions about who my teacher was.  Was she married?  What does she like to do?  Is she human?  As a teacher, I wanted my students to know a little about me and decided that a quiz would be an interactive way to share.

It’s easy, just list 5-10 statements about yourself, some true and some false.  You can have students work alone, but I usually have my kids work with a partner and record their answers on index cards.  I want my kids to talk to each other on that first day and I love hearing the conversations as they make inferences like “She is wearing a green shirt, so she must like green.” As you reveal the answers, you can explain what makes the statements true or false for you.

Introduce yourself to students with a back to school quiz (from The Pensive Sloth--August 2014)

Introduce yourself to students with a true/false quiz all about you!

Best of luck as you prepare to greet your kiddos!

–The Pensive Sloth