Early Teacher Appreciation Week

 Early Teacher Appreciation Week

Photograph Credit: Microsoft Images

Officially scheduled for the week of May 5 – 9, Teacher Appreciation Week came early for us due to Miss 6’s teacher’s early retirement.

Her teacher is expecting her first child in April, and Friday was her last school day. Therefore, we celebrated an early Teacher Appreciation Week, Monday through Friday.

Making our teachers feel special is not as difficult as it sounds. By listening and paying attention to their likes and hobbies, we can put together a mini-celebration each day of the week to show our appreciation for the hours invested into their students.

Our early Teacher Appreciation Week centered around our teacher’s upcoming delivery and her previous requests:  Early Teacher Appreciation Week

Monday: Homemade card, actually a booklet, made by Miss 6

Tuesday: Wrapped baby outfit, size 3-6 months, with a thank you card from me

Wednesday: Wrapped board book about shapes to start her child’s library

Thursday: Lunch from one of her favorite restaurants picked up and delivered to school by Paul

Friday: Homemade chocolate chip cookies with the recipe that she requested from a previously delivered batch of cookies

We tailored our gifts toward our teacher’s needs and wants. Other options could have included favorite candy, a gift card, a collectible, watching the class for a lunch period, scheduling a field trip, or any other task that would give her a break.

Even though Miss 6’s teacher missed the official Teacher Appreciation Week, we made sure she received the same attention she would have gotten had she remained at school.

Teachers have a difficult job balancing educating the children, partnering with parents, and staying within the bounds of the administration.

When you get a great teacher, it is easy to take them for granted. Love on those excellent teachers as they are jewels and need your encouragement.

If you have Teacher Appreciation Week coming up in May and are unsure about how to celebrate, start noticing your teacher’s hobbies and interests. In using time wisely, you will discover more about these special people.

Once you get some ideas, you will soon find your own way to showing your appreciation. Happy observing!

Question: When is your Teacher Appreciation Week?

What Do You Think?: Children Writing Thank You Notes

Free Printable Thank you notes

Photograph Credit: Life Your Way

Around the blogosphere, many bloggers share their perspective on life. As I contemplate these many ideas (and some are really out there), sometimes I’m not sure what I think.

During this week of What Do You Think?, I will share a topic and give you my 2¢. Please share your opinion.

The topics chosen will follow the posting schedule.

Thanks in advance for your contributions on this journey to Using Time Wisely!

What Do You Think about Children Writing Thank You Notes?

Tracy’s 2¢: Yes, children can and should write thank you notes. Growing up in a home where my mom taught my brother and I gratitude for tokens of kindness, I learned to write thank you. After Christmas and birthdays, mom would sit down with me and help me compose my own notes.

My children are at different stages, but they all help write their thank you notes:

Toddler: I write the thank you note, and she “signs” it. Her signature is in the form of lines and scribbles, but she sits down and signs them all at the same time. She then delivers or puts the notes in envelopes to mail.

Preschooler: Again, I write the thank you note, and she writes her name. Depending on the length of her friend’s name, she may write her name on the envelope or top of the note. She also hand delivers the notes or helps address the notes for mailing.

Elementary student: Though simple, he writes his own notes making sure to include something personal. His notes are not long, but he writes them. I help him compose his notes, and we usually have 2 to 3 sessions since he tires easily.

As my children grow, they continue to develop their writing skills. A great way for them to practice is by showing their gratitude via writing thank you notes.

The free printable thank you note templates offered by Mandi at Life Your Way are perfect for children. Even beginning with a simple picture drawn to show their gratitude will encourage children to write thank you notes.

Question: Do your children write thank you notes? What do you think?

Using Time Wisely: Learning to Say “No”

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Laura Crowell)

Balancing hospitality, family responsibilities, and ministry opportunities is truly a juggling act. Seeing all the needs and assuming you are the answer to their problems will overwhelm you.

WARNING: No matter what activities, events, and ministries you undertake, there will always be more to do.

So, how do you choose what to take on and what to let go? That answer lies with you as you consider your priorities, time, and abilities.

Priorities

What are your priorities? Five years from now, where do you see yourself? Who do you want to become? Answering these questions to find your priorities will help in answering your question.

Five years from now, I want to have a close bond with my husband and my children. Being involved in their lives through school and church programs is investing my time into their lives. Staying available to help with field trips, science fairs, and programs keeps me connected with my children’s activities.

Will participating in this event deter you or draw you closer to your priorities?

Sometimes choosing to say “no” to a good activity frees you up for another opportunity with more flexibility.

As I stay involved in our school, I have learned to say “no” to a room mom position. Would being a room mom draw me closer to my priority of a close bond with my son? Yes, but when my daughter starts school, I would have to choose.

Instead of room mom, I choose to serve on a committee that stays involved in all the events. During class related activities, I am free to roam between classrooms without conflict.

Time

Considering your current family, work, and home responsibilities, can you take on another project? Be realistic. Taking care of your family with clean clothes, meals, and special moments with you consumes your time. Be careful about adding other opportunities to your hectic schedule. (Ahem. *Speaking to myself here*).

Abilities

Will this task be difficult for you? Substituting for our music teacher would be very difficult for me. I do not play an instrument, sing solos, or read music well. Though this opportunity would keep me close to my son and I could spare the hour, I would struggle with the task. However, overseeing recess would be easier for me to stay close to my son while fitting within my schedule and relying on my mothering skills to watch the children.

When taking on an event, responsibility, or opportunity, consider your priorities, time, and abilities. Filter your question through these channels, consult your spouse or friend, and either accept the responsibility or choose the freedom found in learning to say “no.”

Question: How do you choose which opportunities to accept and which to reject?

Fall Festival: Recap Meeting

Photograph Credit: Flickr (Caston Corporate)

Before planning the events of 2012, I want to take a few posts to complete the events from 2011. In revealing my upcoming events in 2011-2012 post, I highlighted three events. Having completed the fall festival, I promised more information on how to better plan for next year, then came Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Top 10 List.

In getting back on track, I will share what I learned about fall festival and how I plan to improve next year.

Successes

Barriers: Enclosing the space kept all the students and children safe and within boundaries. Separating the open play area and the ponies designated a natural entrance to the pony rides within the KidZone. This arrangement worked so well.

Bounce Houses: Increased number from 2 to 5 this year. The lines were manageable and moved quickly. Having totes for shoes, outdoor mats, and canopies at each entrance kept the area clear, clean, and shaded.

Police Officer: Keeping watch over the entrances and wooded area around the KidZone, the police officer oversaw the safety of our event. Having him available during money exchanges and changing of the volunteers was extremely helpful in keeping our event safe.

Stage Performances: With performances beginning every half hour, the KidZone stayed alive during the full event. Having the hay bales for seating gave the stage an automatic audience. The placement worked well in the center of the area, and the juggling and karate demonstrations were well-received.

Volunteers: This event would not be possible without the many volunteers. In KidZone alone, I worked with over 50 volunteers throughout the day. Asking community organizations to help with our event allowed our staff and parents to oversee the details.

The event was definitely a success without any major problems. However, there are always those unexpected items to improve next year.

Improvements

Audio: Add speakers and microphone to area for announcements and stage area. We had no way to get information to those in the KidZone. For safety, we need to have audio for next year.

Advertising: KidZone flyers distributed at the entrances than ignored at the KidZone registration table.

A source of frustration: I spent a good 2-3 hours designing a half-sheet flyer with a map and details about the Kidzone. Volunteers were scheduled to distribute these flyers at the KidZone entrance.

When a few volunteers failed to arrive, I adjusted responsibilities. Unfortunately, the flyer distribution suffered, and I found the stack of flyers in a box after the event. Though it was a source of frustration, I have the template for next year. (Looking on the bright side. :-))

Giant Slide: Need a more advanced slide next year. The younger children had lots of activities while the older students missed the giant slide. There was miscommunication with the contract. The e-mail indicated the large slide would be delivered, but we received a small one. Next year, I will be more proactive with the bounce house contracts and contacts.

Cleanup: The most frustrating part of the event was cleanup. The new crew came in with gusto. In an effort to help, they cleared everything out, stacked remaining items in storage, and left.

I ended up coming back on Monday morning to sort through all the KidZone items. Finding coolers filled with floating leftover water bottles, totes with soiled paper towels, and missing items was not pleasant. Knowing that tearing down will be quick and immediate, I need to better prepare next year.

I may try to choose one area where all the KidZone items stay until I can go through the items. By the end of the event, I hit an energy low. Dealing with cleanup was hard to swallow.

After each major event, I like to take a week to decompress and take a step back to view the big picture. With a little break, I can better rate the details to find the successes and failures. By writing down these observations and finding solutions, I bring these notes to the recap meeting for my report.

The recap meeting for this event was long, but lots of suggestions given to consider for improving our event for next year. In using time wisely, I celebrated the successes, learned from the unexpected surprises, and enjoyed the process.

Question: What helps you improve your events? Please add your comments and suggestions.

Event Planning: Cutting your Losses

Photograph CrediT: Flickr

After a busy spring and bustling summer, I thought fall would be smooth sailing now that the school routine is in place. Once again, I was wrong. I am coming to the conclusion that the slower pace with preschool-age children and toddlers is behind me.

Each season is different with the activities and responsibilities. By preparing myself for this season of busyness, I am learning to declutter my activity schedule to keep it manageable and organized by cutting my losses.

Planned Activities

As activity leaders for our Sunday school class, Paul and I are quickly learning that we are not the only ones in a busy stage. The lower attendance at our planned events indicates busy schedules for all. In an effort to assist our members with great family adventures that meet their needs, we find it necessary to periodically cancel an activity.

Canceling Activities

Having 3-4 gatherings a month can be too frequent. Though it would be nice to have more, Paul and I spend a lot of time preparing, scheduling, and running these activities. Knowing our limitations, we sometimes choose to cut our losses and cancel good events that may work better in a slower month. Again, the slower months are few and far between, but the start of the school year has proved to be filled with plenty activity.

Rescheduling Activities

Whether you are attempting to schedule a dinner party, play group, or afternoon at the park, don’t be discouraged if your request gets declined. Try not to take it personally. You are not being rejected. The offer is getting rejected. If schedules do not permit gathering now, then try again in the winter or spring. All families have busy seasons and by cutting your losses on some events will free up time and energy for other activities.

By cutting our losses when an activity does not materialize, I am using time wisely on my other responsibilities and priorities. In your season of busyness, take heart, declutter your activities, cut your losses, and use your time wisely while focusing on your priorities. Happy planning!