• Lifestyle

    My Favourite Things from our First Year in New Zealand

    When I was in 2nd grade our teacher gave us the typical elementary school writing assignment: what do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t remember much about my writing journey in primary school, but that assignment was particularly memorable. Here are the three things that I wrote that I would do or be when I was an adult:

    • Single (ha!)
    • An author (maybe a little closer?)
    • Living in London

    Now where I got the idea that I’d live in London, I have no idea. Regardless, I know it’s been a long-time dream of mine to live abroad. And when we hugged my parents goodbye in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airpot a year ago, I had no way of imagining what my life would be like after a year living my childhood dream. Now that we’re on the other side of the year, I find myself meditating on how incredibly thankful I am to the Lord for bringing us here. He has been so good to us! I’ve been challenged, refined, and made into a better person than when I left US soil.

    This doesn’t mean everything has been been perfect. In fact– it’s been far from it! There have been hard times when I have longed for my family and friends back home; missed the familiarity of Target, Amazon and my favourite stores or just simply wanted to know where to go to buy Q-Tipps, bobby pins that weren’t black, or art supplies. Kent can attest that there have been quite a few tearful nights and passionate pleas to move back to America.

    Much to my surprise, as I drove to work this morning I found myself unexpectedly in tears over how simply grateful I am for this year. So in celebration of making it through my first year living abroad, I thought I would write a post outlining my five favourite things from this year. Some are big and some are, well, not so big. Either way, it’s safe to say that this year has been my favourite one yet.

    Paying off Debt

    A little background– Those of you who know us well know that we have been on a financial journey for a few years. In January 2016, we read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. In April of that year, we cut up our credit card and committed to not get one again. When I finished graduate school that November, we began working to pay off all of our debt. At that time, we had a new-ish (2012) car and a pretty hefty student loan balance. Yuck!

    From November 2016 until June 2018, we worked on paying off my car. We then promptly sold it so that we could move overseas. Since getting to New Zealand we have been aggressively attacking our last remaining debt: my student loan. A year in, we’ve paid off over $24,000 USD (or $36,000 NZD), and we’re on track to have the final $10,000 USD paid off by October.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a massive shout out to my in-laws who have graciously let us live with them for the last year. A big part of moving overseas for us was knowing that we could both get paid a lot more than if we remained in America. Living with them has allowed us to minimise our expenses and funnel a large portion of our income to paying off debt. So, if you’re reading, thanks R+H!

    Travelling

    This year has been a big year for travel! At first, coming to New Zealand in general felt like travel… and I guess it kind of is in a way. It’s still a new place for me and there’s so much I still want to see.

    I’ve been really fortunate to have quite a few visitors since moving. My sister and her boyfriend came in October for a week on my first school holiday. It was the perfect way to cap off our first three months living overseas! We took a quick road trip to Rotorua and Taupo, two places I had never been before.

    My adorable sister and her boyfriend trying to pose like our parents in Rotorua.

    In early January, my best friend came to visit me for two weeks. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I was a few weeks into the summer holidays and beginning to get into this funk I get every time I have extended time off. In addition, I was feeling especially homesick after Christmas without my family and our many traditions. I cried on the way to the airport to get her… and then cried more after she came through the gate. After I composed myself, we spent some time in the sunshine. We spent a few days at our family beach house, then flew down to the South Island for a long road trip around the highlights of the South Island. Our trip took us to Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass, Hokitika, Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, Wanaka (my new favourite place) and Queenstown. We capped off the trip paragliding, something I thought I would never do.

    We took about 100 pictures with #thatwanakatree
    Paragliding in Queenstown from Coronet Peak. It was an incredible experience!

    My last big trip was back to the Motherland for my dear friend’s wedding. It was the most fun two weekend with lots of celebrating, dancing, shopping and reuniting with good friends. After the wedding, I flew down to North Carolina to surprise our church small group, spend time with my sister, and catch up with my Sigma Alpha Iota sisters. I capped off the two weeks by spending Easter with my family in Atlanta. Thanks for getting married so that I could come back to visit, Mack!

    Mack’s wedding was so thoughtful and so HER! I loved her gold dress– it matched her and her “golden” personality beautifully.

    We capped off the year with a Queen’s Birthday weekend in Dunedin. While it was winter and may have rained most of the weekend, we really enjoyed getting to see a new city. It has a rich Scottish heritage and amazing landscape. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be making the journey down there again someday… just maybe when it’s summertime.

    Walking through the grounds of Larnach Castle.

    Aside from that, we have gone on lots of little holidays to our family bach at Langs Beach and we went to Raglan for the New Years holiday. We’ve taken day trips to Shakespear park (where we also, coincidentally, had school camp this year), Piha and have enjoyed many beautiful days in Auckland. I’m so thankful!

    Christmas day at Kent’s favourite place– Lang’s Beach!

    Being Auntie and Uncle

    One of the things we missed the most while in America was getting to be Auntie Bethany and Uncle Kent to our sweet niece, April. When we visited New Zealand in August 2016 Kent’s twin brother and his wife announced they were pregnant. So exciting!

    I’m the oldest in my family and none of my siblings are married yet, so there aren’t any nieces or nephews on my side of the family. Seeing photos and videos of our sweet niece made it really hard to stay put in America and the desire to be a present Auntie and Uncle was definitely part of why we came. Recently a nephew was added to the mix.

    I know being apart from my family when my siblings start having kids will be really difficult, but right now I’m excited that we get to spend so much time with our niece and nephew over here.

    My Job

    When I decided to come to New Zealand I worked with Education Personnel, a recruitment agency to help teachers find jobs in New Zealand. Thankfully, I entered the job market in a massive teacher shortage so I knew finding a job would be no problem. Knowing little about the city, I easily could’ve ended up anywhere. Looking back, I can’t believe how lucky I was to end up at my school!

    By far, this has been the most FUN I have had as a teacher. I came in assuming New Zealand schools would be pretty similar to American schools, but that’s been far from the truth! Thankfully, the way New Zealand schools run and what they value is very in-line with what I value as a teacher. We play games, our timetable is flexible, and testing is kept to a minimum. All great things in my book!

    I’d also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the staff I work with. They’ve been so helpful with my adjustment to New Zealand and are truly the most fun to work with. My year level team is innovative, social and always willing to lend a helping hand or collaborate.

    We recently went to Ima, a middle eastern restaurant in the city, as a goodbye send-off for one of my teammates.

    Healthier Lifestyle

    One thing Kent and I have discussed at length since our move to New Zealand is the difference in lifestyle. We feel that in New Zealand, it’s much easier to be healthy. In Auckland it’s easy to walk to your nearest supermarket or to the local shops and we often take walks along Milford Beach after dinner. I’m also quite fortunate that I can walk home from work. My work is a little over 3 miles away from our house, so it takes around an hour and 10 minutes for me to walk home.

    We’ve also both found gyms we love! I attend a dance studio for barre classes and bootcamp and Kent attends a gym right down the road (also within walking distance). While they’re more expensive than the $10/month Planet Fitness, we’re both really pleased with our choices. It seemed outrageously expensive at first ($90/month for Kent and $165/month for me), but for something that is truly a hobby of ours we feel that it’s worth it for our present enjoyment and future physical abilities!

    Another area of health we’ve discussed at length is the food. While our cooking at home hasn’t changed much since coming, we do feel that the food is fresher here in New Zealand. There are fruit and vege shops with New Zealand grown produce and meat and dairy is usually from New Zealand. It may seem like a small thing on paper, but I think the difference is quite noticeable!

    In closing

    I started this blog as a way of helping other teachers find ways to endure throughout their career, and, although this space hasn’t existed for long, I think it has also started to serve as a way for me to chronicle my own personal ways I have endured. When I think of the word “endure,” it’s often associated with things that are difficult. And while that may be the case sometimes, I think that building a life that lasts and is joyful throughout the highs and lows is a truer, better example of what it looks like to endure well. I’m thankful that I’ve endured through the last year and have come out as a better, stronger person than I was before.

  • Encouragement,  Goals,  Lifestyle

    Don’t Waste your Break

    It’s that time of year again– summer break! Or, at least it is for all you Northern Hemisphere folks. Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re rugging up for winter. Thankfully, we have a two week break coming up in a few short weeks. I couldn’t be more excited!

    Over the last few years of teaching, my husband and I have come to realise that I don’t do well with extended time off. I can vividly remember one day about four weeks in to my first summer break where I had reached the end of my rope. Kent worked full time at a summer camp, so my downtime was his busiest time of year. When he got home from work, he excitedly asked me how my day was going. I immediately burst into tears because I hadn’t done anything that day! I napped, not because I was tired, but because it passed the time quicker than being awake. It happened again this year, but was only made worse by me being homesick for my family at Christmas at the same time. Honestly, we began to dread breaks.

    I can’t change that teachers have massive breaks, more-so than workers in other industries. If I wanted to stay in teaching (which I do), I knew that I’d have to find ways to cope with these times. I thought about what the main difference was between my life during the school year and during breaks and here’s what I came up with:

    After going non-stop for so long, an extended time off can be a shock to the system. As teachers, we work so much on structure. We have routines and procedures. We have weekly commitments that fall at the same time: library time, staff meetings, specials, etc. When I’m on break, all semblance of structure goes out the door. Going from a lot of structure to none is really unsettling and often leaves me feeling lost with what to do with such an extended period of time in front of me. These instances have been a wake up call to me about how I should prepare for break times.

    It wasn’t that I needed to avoid break times– I just needed to give structure and purpose to them. I know some of you are cringing at that. Honestly, I was too! I didn’t want my breaks to be regimented, but I did need a little more guidance than waking up and thinking “hmm, what will I do today?”

    Enter: The Break Time Bucket List

    While perusing one of my favourite blogs for inspiration, I came across this post on a summer fun list. I love Emily’s approach to having a Summer Fun List in order to make the most of your time off or to make the most of the season you’re in. I decided to adapt her approach to meet my need for a little structure on school term holidays.

    Instead of giving myself a schedule for my break times, I decided in the weeks leading up to my school break, I would make a bucket list. My bucket list consists of anything I’ve been wanting to do and haven’t gotten to, as well as things that are purely fun. This has been such a great solution for me. Sometimes I plan ahead and think of what I want to do on each day, but on days where I don’t I can just look at the bucket list and pick something to do that day.

    I drafted my bucket list on a blank page in my Powersheets so that I’d have it for easy reference next month.

    While many of these things do fit into my yearly Powersheet goals and could be made into an item on my monthly Tending List, they aren’t extremely time-specific. Therefore, I’d rather not include them. Also, having it as a “Bucket List” makes the time away from school feel more set apart and special.

    This is the first school break where I’ve had no travel plans and haven’t had anyone coming to visit. To me, what’s most is amazing is that, unlike previous breaks, I don’t feel anxious or worried about what I’ll be doing while on holiday. It’s quite the opposite– I couldn’t be more excited to get started on this bucket list. Sixteen days to do what I want sounds pretty great to me!

    Do you have any way of structuring your break times or do you go with the flow? Either way, I’d love to hear about what you’re doing on your upcoming break in the comments below!

  • Goals

    April Goals

    As a teacher, I’m used to April signifying the “beginning of the end or school.” We’re beginning to prep for standardised testing, kids are getting antsy, and we’re all counting down the minutes until spring break. If that’s you right now, I know how you’re feeling. The exhaustion from working the last three months without a break is no joke. Know I’m cheering you on! You’ve got this!

    Now that we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, April brings my favourite season: autumn! Even just yesterday I could smell that a neighbour was using their fireplace. The smell immediately reminded me of the year we lived in our little white house in rural North Carolina. We regularly used our wood burning stove to heat our house. and husband and I texted each other almost daily about a great “fall tree” we found, the kind where the leaves are vibrant orange or deep red. So, April… bring on the sweater weather, apple/pumpkin fall-themed desserts, and crisp mornings. I’m so ready for you!

    I didn’t do a goals post in February or March… oops! But here are some big things I was able to cross of my Tending List:

    • Pay off student loans. From the beginning of January to the end of March we paid off over $7,000 USD of my student loans. It finally feels like we’re in the home stretch of paying everything off and I couldn’t be more thrilled!
    • Run an 8km. When my husband signed us up for Round the Bays, I said my goal was to finish the 8.4 km run in an hour; however, training didn’t go quite to plan and I mentally had scrapped that goal, resigned to the fact that I’d have to walk some. When the day of the run came not only did I run the entire time, but I also beat my goal of an hour! I kept telling myself “just one more km til you walk” or “just 3 more minutes” until I got to the 2 km to go sign… at that point, I knew I could make it!
    • Read the entire Bible in a 2019. Granted, I’m not done with this goal yet, but I’ve made a ton of progress! I’m almost a quarter of the way finished. I’m reading along with The Bible Recap podcast, which has been tremendously helpful in unpacking and explaining what I’ve read each day. Having a great accountability partner has helped too (looking at you, Sarah).
    • Make it through our School Camp! It was a tiring three days, but the kids loved it. I felt almost like I was a camp counsellor for a few days and it was really meaningful to be able to interact with my students in this way instead of with my teacher hat on.
    Two of our kids dressed up as me and and my coworker for their activity group’s skit! Seeing those boys walk around in heels, lipstick, and dresses was hilarious!

    On my calendar this month:

    • My trip to America! One of my dearest friends is getting married, so I’m journeying back home to be a bridesmaid. I’ll also get to see lots of friends and spend some quality time with my family. I’ll be gone for around two weeks.
    • My Mother-in-law and Father-in-law’s birthdays are this month, so we’ll have a few family lunches to celebrate!
    • An engagement party for one of my coworkers!

    Things I’m loving right now:

    • Cooler fall temperatures (obviously)
    • How to Money podcast— Kent and I are currently following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step plan, but we’ve also learned a lot from this podcast! Our favourite episodes include: Before You Buy a House (#65), Actually Buying a Home (#67), Front Loading the Sacrifice (#74), and How Much Do Kids Really Coast? (#75). While we won’t be navigating this for a while, I think Teaching Kids About Money (#61) could be a good one too!
    • My new Lorna Jane workout clothes. I had always just gotten my workout clothes from Old Navy, but have recently felt convicted that it’s okay to invest money in something you wear almost every day. I have been really surprised at the difference between my new athletic wear and what I had previously. There’s so much more support, durability, and I just feel better in it.

    April Goals

    • Monthly celebration prep
    • No working while in America
    • Read 2 books (It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way & Where the Crawdads Sing are my current two)
    • Bake something for fun (my MIL’s birthday cake)
    • Pay off $5000 NZD in student loans
    • Set up automatic tithing at our church
    • Print 5 new recipes to try
    • Intentionally date Kent

    What are your goals for the month of April? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

  • Classroom Community,  Encouragement,  Teaching

    A piece of encouragement

    “The dumbest thing you can do as a teacher is to keep on doing something just because you already planned it.”

    These wise words were spoken by one of my favourite professors at Meredith College, the small women’s college where I completed my MAT. Even though I graduated a few years ago, I find myself coming back to them more and more often.

    Have you ever felt the urge to take a particular unit in another direction because your students weren’t interested? Or maybe you’ve experienced the flip side– they’re super interested in something else, something you’re not covering in your class. Well, everyone… here’s your permission: make the change.

    I’m often hesitant to make these changes. “But Bethany, you put so much thought and consideration into this lesson! Were those thoughts wrong? Of course not! Just keep going! It’ll work out eventually” These thoughts ring in my head hour after hour as I agonise over the decision of whether I should pivot and change or stay the course. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a time where I was glad that I stayed the course or ignored the “urges” my kids have. And never have I regretted following them.

    I saw this most recently in my class with our reading of The Lightning Thief, the read aloud I planned for Term 1. While it took us a little bit to get into the story, eventually we were having 15-30 minute discussions about Greek mythology following every read aloud session! My original intention was to use The Lightning Thief as a mentor text to model novel study roles and responsibilities, then teach key fiction comprehension skills. I had planned 8 weeks worth of content surrounding this novel and then linked it to what was happening in the novel the students were reading. We did the book tasting so that we’d be set up for novel studies. The kids had their books, they made book club treaties, and had even begun to read! However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe engagement would be higher if I followed their urge to learn Greek mythology and we abandoned our novel study. I felt like if I stuck with our novel study then I’d be wasting an opportunity. After all, how many times do we get literally our entire class engaged on a single topic or unit of study? Answer: Never.

    I ended up handing the decision over to my students in a Google poll. They could vote to continue to do the novel study and learn Greek mythology concurrently, or to put off the novel study and do Greek mythology full time this term. Do you know what they voted?

    Seriously– that’s their vote! Twenty four wanted to do Greek mythology and two wanted to continue with novel study. So… we made the switch!

    The change in our literacy block has been pretty profound since we “abandoned” our novel study and followed where the students wanted to go. In the two weeks since we made the swap, I’ve rarely had a moment where students weren’t engaged. We’ve created profiles of various gods/goddesses, learned their histories, created plays about other greek myths (King Midas and the Golden Touch, Poseidon and Medusa, The Trojan Horse, just to name a few), and are moving into theme and character traits. We even linked this with narrative writing to create our own Greek god/goddess and tell of how they became heroes in Ancient Greece. I’ve even had parents emailing me saying that their students are asking to go to the public library to check out books on Greek mythology.

    Am I a little bummed that we didn’t get to do our novel study? Of course. I can’t get back the hours I worked on that unit; however, it will have it’s time… it’s just not right now. And my future self will still be thankful.

    Have you ever abandoned what you planned to follow a student urge or interest? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

  • Literacy

    Launching Your Novel Study with a Booktasting

    I’ve been dreaming about doing a Book Tasting ever since I started teaching. I had seen it either on Instagram or in a Facebook group and was immediately in love.

    Looking back, I think that the biggest reason I loved it was because it seemed fun to redesign your room. It took me three years of teaching before I finally did it, and in that amount of time my reasons for doing a book tasting have definitely changed. Let’s be honest– the redesign still WAS fun; however, I think now my perspective has changed and I see many more benefits that extend past the redesign. Here are my top reasons for why you should do a book tasting in your classroom:

    1. The room transformation hooks your readers
    2. The student ownership and choice gives you buy-in and empowers your students
    3. It gives them a clear example of when they use essential reading skills

    First, there’s no denying that a room transformation IS exciting– both for you and the students! Mine were totally hooked, even before they were allowed in the classroom! While it was a bit of work, I kept imagining the look on my students’ faces when they saw our classroom. In total, I’d say the entire endeavour took around 2 hours. That includes creating the table decor (plus printing and cutting), buying the materials, gathering books from the resource room, and the actual set up. It’s fairly manageable if you pace it over a few weeks. I definitely don’t recommend waiting until the last minute! You’ll be frazzled and the kids will sense it.

    Here’s a break down of the materials I used for our book tasting. If there was a cost, I included that as well.

    1. 6 books, 8 copies each (free from the resource room at our school)
    2. Book tasting bookmarks and book rating forms from Primary Teaching Resources (free on TpT)
    3. Table signs and student name cards (I made these, so they were free. You can get them from my TpT store)
    4. 5 red plastic table cloths ($2 each, $10 total, these linked are similar)
    5. 18 dessert cups ($3 for 6, $18 total. I can’t find mine on Amazon, but these look cute!)
    6. 40 bags of “crispy potatoes” ($15, only needed)
    7. Cookies/biscuits ($5)

    Total cost: $48

    I know some people may cringe at that. I do acknowledge that we as teachers are grossly underpaid and often do not get reimbursed for costs like this. But honestly… it brought ME a lot of joy to do this with my class, so to me it’s worth it. Also, I can reuse all the tablecloths and dessert cups next year, PLUS I still had 14 bags of “crispy potatoes” that I can still use for my lunches. You could definitely do it for less if you had table cloths of your own at home or didn’t provide snacks.

    Two students shared one of these cups between them. In all, each student had a bag of “crispy potatoes” (aka chips), one ginger nut cookie, and two chocolate fingers.

    You might be tempted to skip the transformation part, but I honestly think it’s an essential part of a book tasting. I intentionally closed the blinds on our windows and put tape over the door so that students couldn’t see the classroom before school started. I put up a “SCHOOL CAFE CLOSED FOR CLEANING” sign and made a note at the bottom telling the students that they should meet me outside at 8:55 for their reservation. They were going nuts! They were so excited to see what it was and try to get a peek inside. I waited for my students outside the classroom with an apron on, reminding them that they would be seated at 8:55 for their dinner reservation. It built up suspense for what was about to happen and set the tone that reading is exciting and fun.

    Once the 8:55 bell rang, I did a quick attendance “to see if anyone was late for their reservation,” then escorted students inside by table just like a host would at a restaurant. Throughout the tasting, I answered their questions, but also refilled their water cups, just like a waiter would. I greeted them by their last name and even reminded a few that “we are at a restaurant, so good manners are expected.” Even my most reluctant readers were totally engaged with our book tasting, something I really believe was a direct result of the room transformation.


    Hosting a book tasting is one way that you can give students choice and ownership over what they read. As I selected novels for our study, I made sure to select a wide range of things that I knew a large variety of students would be interested in. I also made sure to account for the various reading levels in my classroom.

    As students “tasted” their books, they filled out a quick form that had them rate the book on a scale of 1-10, circle whether they would like to read the book or not, and write a brief summary. I think the rating and the scale really helped students ultimately decide which books were their favourites, something which may have bene difficult if those components weren’t there. At the end of the tasting, students filled out the bookmark with their top three choices. They turned it in to me and I used their top three to form the clubs.

    Students filling out their tasting forms.

    Doing this gave students ownership in what they read. I told them ahead of time that if they didn’t put a book in their top three, then I wouldn’t put them in that club. This varies drastically over how I taught guided reading in the past. Yes, I’d still consider student interest then, but to me, giving student choice is even better than you just selecting a book for them, even if the book IS on a topic they’re interested in. In the end, I only had one or two students that were unhappy, but that was only because they had already read most of the books. Regardless, I’d say having 24 out of my 26 students excited about reading and book clubs is a huge win.

    I think we can all agree that our number one goal in reading ISN’T for students to pass a standardised test at the end of the year; however, it can be really hard to balance the pressure we feel to get our kids to pass these tests and the desire to just help them become lifelong readers. Booktasting is one way that you can review skills that students might need for a standardised test, such as skimming and summarising, all while giving them a real-life reading scenario: how do I know if a book is a good choice for me?

    Prior to “tasting” our books, I taught a really quick mini-lesson on how to know if a book is a good fit for you. We identified places we could look for a quick summary of what we were going to read (the back cover or inside flap). We discussed various ways to assess whether a book is too hard, too easy, or just right. Lastly and most importantly, I told them that the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can consider is whether or not you think you would ENJOY the book. I think this last part surprised most of my students. “You mean we can read a book that’s too hard or too easy for us as long as we enjoy it?!” Yes, my friends, yes you can.

    This will forever be one of the highlights of my teaching career and I’m already looking forward to the next time we do it! Because I teach a composite class (two grade levels in one room), I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it again next year. Regardless, you can bet that I’m already on the hunt for something similar.

    Have you done a book tasting? If not, what’s holding you back? I’d love to answer any of your questions in the comments below!

  • Organization

    How I use Trello to organize my life

    If you’re anything like me, you have a billion ideas running through your head at once. I’ll see something I like on Pinterest or Instagram and it’ll spark an idea for a product or something I want to do in my class and I’ll write it in my planner or a random sticky note, only for the idea to get lost. I don’t have time to continuously scroll Instagram for what I previously saw, so I needed a better way to keep myself and my ideas organised. Enter: Trello!

    Trello describes itself as “online project management tool”, but don’t let those business-y phrases turn you off! The best way I can think of explaining it is a warehouse for all your to-do lists. It works on desktops and it has a handy app for when an idea strikes you and you aren’t at your laptop.

    After you sign up, you’ll be prompted to make a “board.” A board is an overall area where you house your specific lists.

    For me, I have a teaching board and a personal board. Another handy feature you’ll see on this page is “Create a Team.” When you create a team, you can share an entire board and all it’s cards with another person. I can see this being a very helpful feature to use with your spouse. You could easily have a board for home projects, goal or trip planning, and managing to-dos for your kiddos!

    After you click on a board, you get to a page that looks like this:

    These are the various lists I have in my Teaching Trello board. While some cards can be filed under multiple lists I generally try to stick to just one so it’s not confusing. I love that I can have multiple lists going in one place and that they are easy to see all at once.

    My favourite part of Trello lies within the cards. These are the small “to-do” items under each list title. I think this is really what makes Trello stand out from other similar programs such as Google Keep. You can label your cards with various tags (similar to how the tag for this blog post is “organization”), write a description, add comments and attachments, track your activity, share the card with others, create deadlines, and make checklists. Phew! Below is an example of a card I created in my “To Research” list:

    As with most things, it’s hard to know if this is something that will work for you until you give it a try; however, if you are anything like me and live on lists I think you might find it extremely helpful! Here are a few of my top tips for getting started:

    1. Make sure you have a few different board categories. Here are a few that I use: TeachersPayTeachers, Blog Post Ideas, To-do list (these are purely action based things, like ‘cut laminating), To Research, To Buy and Completed Items. I’ve found that this really helps me batch my tasks and get more done.
    2. Create a “completed items” board and put all completed items there instead of deleting them. This lets you have a record of previous items in case you need to revisit them. Also, it feels good to move that card from one of your lists to “completed!”
    3. Schedule a time during the week where you transfer items from your Trello lists onto your calendar. This ensures that you’ve allowed time to get different items done and that things don’t get forgotten. This also allows you to add different things to your Trello lists way ahead of time! Just add a “deadline” so you can get reminded. For example, I knew back in November that I wanted to make special Valentine’s Day bookmarks. I added a card on my “TeachersPayTeachers” list and set a deadline for February 1. It wasn’t forgotten. When I was doing my weekly scheduling in January, I saw the Valentine’s Bookmarks and could easily add them into my weekly planning. Voila!
    4. Be okay with things sitting on your list for an extended period of time. There are things on my Trello that have sat there for months, especially on my “To Research” page. We only have a finite time during the week, month and year, so it’s important that you do the time-sensitive things before tackling the less urgent matters. You can rest assured that you’ll get to it eventually because it’s on your Trello! You won’t forget it.

    How do you keep your to-do list organized? Do you use an online system or are you a paper-pencil person? I’d love to hear more about what you do in the comments below!

  • Goals

    January 2019 Goals

    I don’t know about you, but I find January both exciting and daunting. I love the idea of change for the better, whether it be starting a new way of eating, a new exercise plan, or forming new habits; however, this year I’ve realized that I have a big problem with sticking through things until the end, which is why I find January really daunting. It symbolizes a fresh start, but I have trouble believing that I’m capable of making lasting change. That’s a large part of why my word for 2019 (and focus for this blog) is “endurance.” The definition of endurance is, “the capacity to last or withstand wear and tear,” which is a quality I want to cultivate in my character. In other words, not give up when things get hard or when I simply just don’t want to do it! That was a hard realization, but in the weeks since I uncovered it in my Powersheets prep work I’ve found myself tapping into that realization when I’m faced with something I don’t want to do. That’s pretty empowering and motivating!

    To help me meet my large annual goals, I have a “tending list” to help me focus my efforts on smaller steps each month. Each month is also broken down into monthly, weekly and daily goals. My January tending list is below. I’ll be sure to share my progress, along with my February goals, at the beginning of February. Each goal on my tending list feeds into a larger goal. As a reminder, my larger annual goals include: 

    • Create a legacy that endures
    • Love my body well
    • Cultivate faith
    • Be bold in my career
    • Hospitality

    January 2019 Tending List

    Monthly Goals

    • Create Google Doc for debt paydown.
    • Make list of 6 finance books to read in 2019 and schedule out when to read them.
    • Create a ½ marathon training plan.
    • Buy a binder for the Donnell Family Recipe Binder
    • Create New Years bookmarks
    • Add 5 paid products to Teachers Pay Teachers
    • Write 3 blog posts
    • Create a Bible/Worship playlist on Spotify
    • Buy and fill in perpetual calendar with important birthdays and anniversaries
    • Monthly celebrations preparations


    Weekly Goals

    • Listen to 1 Dave Ramsey podcast
    • Check in with Sarah re: Bible Recap 
    • Sign up for barre classes
    • Make running plan

    Daily Goal

    • Phone down, eyes up (<1 hour social media per day)
    • Bible & Bible Recap Podcast
    • Eat a vegetable for lunch

    Do you have a word of the year? If so, what made you decide on that word of the year? Tell me in the comments below!

  • Goals

    2019 Goals

    And just like that, another year has come and gone! It feels like 2018 flew by, but maybe that’s just because it included a lot of big things. I assumed the team leader position for my grade level, I completed my most challenging year of teaching yet, and, most of all, we moved countries. Most of my 2018 goals centered around our big international move, and while I’m glad that our move is in the past, we’re still settling into our new lifestyle and home. Honestly, even though I still don’t feel completely settled, I’m glad that many of my goals for moving internationally are now in the past—they’ve been completed!

    I’ve never shared the details of my goal setting with a large audience (or really anyone), but it’s something I want to do this year for two main reasons. For one, I think that sharing your goals with those around you can help you stay more accountable. I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s book Better than Before and have been doing a lot of reflecting on how I’m most motivated to meet my goals and form desirable habits. I’m a bit of what she calls an “obliger,” I’m motivated by external accountability and obligations, but really struggle to stay internally motivated. What better accountability than posting goals for everyone to see? Second, I’m hopeful that it’ll encourage other teachers (hopefully you!) to set goals for yourself, both personally and professionally. It’s hard to know your destination if you never name it. When we make goals, we see where we want to be and can identify action steps to get there. As a big planner, this really resonates with me and I wouldn’t be surprised if goal setting theories and ideas also resonated with many other teachers. After all, what percentage of our week do we probably spend preparing and planning? Maybe don’t answer that question…

    I have five big goals for 2019, each of which has a bunch of smaller goals or action steps associated with it. The five goals are…..

    My 2019 Goals!

    Why? As Kent and I get closer to 30, we are beginning to think of our financial assets in a different way. We’re still laser focused on getting rid of debt, but our motivation has shifted slightly. We still don’t want to be enslaved to our debt (after all, the Proverbs 22:7 says “the borrower is slave to the lender.”), but we’ve also begun to think of our finances in relation to how we’ll provide for a future family. We want to be able to take care of our family, to buy a home for future children and others to enjoy, and to set them up well to be able to meet the demands of life. 

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Creating a Google Sheet to track progress! I’m motivated by visuals, so I’m hopeful seeing the progress will keep me motivated.
    • Set up automatic payments to student loans
    • Monthly spending meetings with Kent
    • Create list of finance books to read. My goal is to read 6 per year, so one every two months.
    • Miniature contentment challenge
    • Subscribe to Dave Ramsey podcast and listen to 1 episode per week. Kent and I are avid Dave Ramsey fans and listening to his podcast gets me really excited about getting rid of debt!
    • Unsubscribe from store emails
    • Sell big things in the US that we don’t plan on using again
    • No spending (daily goal)

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate progress by going out to dinner with Kent to commemorate being debt free!

    Why? This sounds pretty self-explanatory, but I think it’s really important! When I first think about this goal, my mind automatically goes to eating well and exercise; however, it’s more than that! It’s getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and resting when I need to. It involves going to annual doctor appointments, finding a new dentist, and positive self-talk. I can be really negative about my body and unfortunately often equate this with self-worth. I want to change that.

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Attend barre class 3 times per week
    • Create a 1/2 marathon training plan
    • Sign up for a 1/2 marathon
    • Wear Apple Watch regularly and close rings
    • Schedule weekly workouts on Sundays
    • Eat a vegetable for lunch
    • Track daily meals
    • Go on a walk after dinner
    • Sugar free/dessert free weeks
    • Create Donnell Family Meal Binder
    • Plant Nanny daily check-in
    • Positive self talk

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate this goal by buying new workout clothes or an outfit that I love!

    Why? This is one goal that always shows up annually on my Powersheets Goal Planner. I want my life to be centered on my faith, so it’s essential that I make that a core annual goal. I’m excited for this year because a large portion of this goal involves one of my closest friends! We’re going to be reading the Bible together using The Bible Recap, a podcast put out by D-group. We have a daily chronological reading, then we listen to a 5-10 minute podcast that unpacks what we just read for the day. I’m also excited for my weekly check-ins with Sarah. We lived together at UNC-Chapel Hill and would’ve done something like this as roommates, so it feels a bit like old times.

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Read my Bible and listen to Bible Recap podcast daily
    • Weekly check-ins with Sarah
    • Create a Bible reading/worship playlist
    • Join a volunteer team at church
    • Memorize 1 Bible verse/month
    • Set up automatic giving for tithing
    • Pray
    • Gratitude journal
    • Bible before phone

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate making progress by ordering a scripture art print for our home.

    Why? I think as women we often feel as if we’re hesitant to take big steps in our career. I absolutely love teaching and would gladly do this job for the rest of my life; however, there are aspects I love about teaching that I can’t do as much of when I’m in the classroom. I love school (as in, being a student) and want to always keep learning. Starting this blog and beginning my TPT store have helped me continue learning. I still have a lot I still have to learn about content and resource creation, but I’m really enjoying the process and it makes me really excited for the upcoming school year (our school year starts in February). I’m also going to be attending a class at one of our local universities to learn Māori, the indigenous language in New Zealand. Learning it has become a bigger focus in primary schools recently. I’m hoping that by taking this course I’ll be better equipped to teach it to my kiddos!

    How? Some mini-goals include:

    • Create a 2 week planning cycle.
    • Go through 40 Hour Teacher Workweek again.
    • Post weekly on Teaching with Endurance.
    • Take photos of classroom activities.
    • Take a class in Te Reo Maori at AUT.
    • Lok for teaching conferences/workshops to attend in New Zealand.
    • TpT Podcast
    • Weekly teaching reflection
    • Complete Understanding by Design planning document for unit 1 of math, reading and inquiry over summer holidays (right now!)

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate progress by treating myself to a new font set or signing up for a teaching conference back in the States.

    My sister and I overlooking Waihi beach on our road trip to Rotorua and Lake Taupo in October 2018.

    Living across the globe from many of your closest friends and family can feel pretty isolating. Making the trip out to Aotearoa can be really expensive, so I don’t feel like I can bank on many visitsregardless how close I am with people! Luckily, I already had one visit from my sister and her boyfriend shortly after arriving in New Zealand and have another to look forward to in just a week (!!!). Most of this goal centers around loving those around me and far away well. I’m notoriously bad at thinking of things to gift people or buying cards to send at the last minute. Sometimes I even write cards and then neglect to send them! I’m hopeful that this goal will help me be more intentional with this. If they live close, this might mean inviting them over for dinner. If they live far, it might mean sending little gifts or cards to let them know I’m thinking of them.

    How? Some mini-goals include…

    • Input birthdays from Facebook into planner
    • Buy a perpetual calendar
    • Schedule monthly prep days
    • Host people at our home once per month
    • Make a list of low-cost activities to do with others
    • Social media free weekends
    • Phone away when with other people (“Phone down, eyes up”)
    • Plan Skypes with friends and family in the USA
    • Respond to Facebook and text messages (anyone else notoriously bad at this?)
    • Create note home postcard to share good things with parents of my students
    • Find an organisation to join

    At the end of the year, I’ll celebrate this goal by writing a letter to close friends telling them what I love about them.

    I’m really excited for these goals and for what’s to come in 2019! Do you set goals for yourself? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!