How Teachers Can Join NAEIR

Teachers, have you heard of NAEIR?  It's a nonprofit organization that receives donations of merchandise from huge companies, and offers them to schools, churches, and other nonprofits.  Technically we (teachers) receive the items for free, by paying only processing and handling fees.  This means savings of 66% - 96% off retail prices!

Shopping on the NAEIR website is a fascinating experience.  You never know what you will find.  Looking under Educational Supplies will lead you to pencils, pens, markers, rulers, a myriad of post-it notes, and tape dispensers, just for a start.  Keep in mind that merchandise is always changing, and make sure to look in other areas as well, such as Best Values, Clearance, Specials, Deal of the Day, and Overstock products.

Here are a few of the companies that donate to NAEIR:

Here is one of my favorite items - I have purchased many of them to use in my Readers and Writers Workshop.  The price for these super sticky post-it notes comes to less than 15 cents per pad!  And, at the time this post was written, there were over 20,000 available.

 NAEIR is a Better Business Bureau accredited charity, and you can feel good about using this company to help your students!  (By the way, the name stands for National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources.)

Keep in mind, the items that you purchase must be used for your students, and not for any other purpose.  Are you ready to join?  Click HERE to go to their website, click on Teacher Program, and sign up.  



How To Post a Classroom Request on Donors Choose

 Donors Choose is an amazing resource for public school classroom teachers!  We never seem to have everything we need in the classroom... and Donors Choose has companies and individuals who want to help.  What could be better?

Whether you are in desperate need of calculators or markers, or you're dreaming of chromebooks, iPads, or flexible seating, it's possible to get them with just a little bit of time and effort.  I'm here to show you how.

Before we begin, let me say that I have been made a Teacher Ambassador for Donors Choose.  That means that if you make an account and post your first project because of this post, I am authorized to make the first donation to your request!  Granted, it's only $5.00, but every little bit helps.  To receive this donation, contact me via email (on the first and last picture) and let me know.

I encourage you to take the time to read through this post, and then follow the directions.  Look around on the site.  Look, especially, at what other teachers have written about their classrooms and at what they are asking for.  We can learn so much from each other!

Okay, time to get started...

 These numbers change every day!  These are correct as of early April, 2018.

Kindness In the Classroom Freebie

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog

On the first day of school somewhere between twenty and thirty students walk in to my third grade classroom.  They're all a little bit nervous.  What kind of teacher will they have?  Are they going to like the other kids?  Will they make new friends?

I look out at this new group of kiddos, and wonder about their stories.  Who has divorced parents and goes back and forth between them?  Who has older siblings who bully them?  Which kids are regularly taken to R rated movies and taught that foul language is acceptable and even necessary?  Who worries every day that their mom or dad will be deported?  Who has a parent read with them every day, and teach them to be kind?

My job is to turn this group of eight-year-olds into a team.  A family.  A group of friends who look out for and encourage each other.  This is my top priority, because when students feel safe and cared for, they learn.  And when they don't, well, they shut down.  Some years are easier, and some are more of a challenge.  Here are some things I can do to make this happen.

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog

Kindness sparks kindness.  I'm the grownup here, so it begins with me!  I must show my students the way that I expect them to behave.  Say please and thank you.  Apologize and ask forgiveness when you hurt someone.  Give a sincere compliment, ask a question, give a smile and a greeting.  

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog

Seriously.  I explicitly teach my students what it means to show kindness.  We have a morning meeting every day during which we share good news and bad news with each other.  This is when students learn how to appropriately respond to a classmate who is happy, and how to respond to one who is sad or angry or scared.  

The sharing ball is passed around the circle, and only the person holding it may speak.  Others respond with gestures - happy fingers to show that we are happy with them, or a hand on the heart to show that our heart hurts for them.  We have also had lots of laughter, and even some tears for each other - when a family member has died, for instance.

(If you are wondering about the time a morning meeting takes - we give it twenty minutes every day, and it is so worth it.  My principal watched and agreed that it teaches speaking and listening skills, which are an important part of our language block.)
Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog

Within the first few weeks of school, once we've gotten to know each other, we write a class motto together.  We ask ourselves three questions: 
  • Who are we?
  • Why are we here?
  • How are we going to accomplish our goals?
The students' answers to these questions becomes our motto, and we say it every day to begin our morning meeting.  Here's our motto for this year:

"We are the third graders at ___________ school.  We are a team of friends who look out for each other.  We are here to learn the third grade standards so that we will be ready for fourth grade, high school, college, and a job someday.  We will do this by asking questions, working hard, doing our homework, reading a lot, making smart choices, and having stamina for learning.  This is our pledge and our promise!"

It doesn't take long at all for this to be memorized, and hopefully internalized!  When problems arise in the classroom, I can say, "We are a team of friends..." and the kiddos will finish with, "Who look out for each other!"  This is powerful. 

Kindness in the Classroom - Lightbulbs and Laughter blog

In case you haven't noticed yet, I kind of have a thing for quilts.  I have some that my grandmother and great grandmother made, and I love their history.  Every quilt has a story.  (If you've never read Patricia Polacco's book The Keeping Quilt with your students, you should!) 

So I've made a free Kindness Quilt for you and your students.  My hope is that you will use it as a part of your effort to promote kindness on your school campus and in your classroom.  I love that it is math fact practice - three levels for differentiation - as well as being a beautiful display for your wall, bulletin board, door, or window.  Students can choose their own colors, which makes every quilt square unique.  Click on the picture below to download it from my TpT store.

Denise from Light Bulbs and Laughter blog

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

The floors have been vacuumed, and the tables cleaned.  The art work and "All About Me" banners are hanging on the wall.  Student binders with work samples are ready to be placed at each student's "home base" spot for parents to look through.

Top: Emoji Self Assessment Tools.  Bottom: Class Rules from Light Bulbs and Laughter
Click HERE to see my Emoji Products

Our student-written Class Motto is front and center, and music is playing softly in the background.  My sign-in sheet is printed, and my donation cards are ready, because it's...

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Click HERE to see my emoji products.

Back To School Night.
Open House.  Meet the Teacher.  It goes by many names, but no matter what it's called, it's one of my favorite things about teaching.

I love meeting with the families of my students!  After ten years in the same grade at the same school, many of them are old friends now, because I've taught their older children.  If they're new friends?  That's great, too.  Meeting them helps me better understand my students, and gives me a chance to answer their questions.

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

For two hours, I stand and talk with parents, brothers, sisters, School Board members, Administration, and the many past students who come through my classroom.

I provide a fun game for the older students, so that I can focus on current students and their parents, but even so, I would guess that I have less than two or three minutes to speak with each family.  The rest of their visit, they wander the room.

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

What do they see?  
Hopefully, a comfortable, cheerful place in which their child will spend about seven hours a day. A place where their child can feel safe and be a part of a community.  A place to grow and learn.

And then they're gone.  They've moved on to another room, or gone home.  They won't spend much time thinking about me, or the classroom.  And that is as it should be.  They have their own lives to live, after all.

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

They don't know how many hours I've spent writing grants at Donors Choose for that rug, this game, that white dry erase table, or those iPads.

They don't know about the hours and hours of research that have gone into best practices in math and literacy, growth mindset, student self-assessment, flexible seating, and the reasons that wobble stools and cushions really can help some students learn.

They don't know how many cans of spray paint my husband had to buy when he painted my old set of mismatched metal bookshelves this summer, or how many hours it took to label my thousands of books to fit our new reading program.

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Click HERE to see these labels in my TpT store.

They don't know that my family stopped at twelve different Target stores on our summer vacation so that their children could have book boxes with special labels.  They don't know that I've spent hundreds of dollars of my own money for Scholastic books and products on Teachers Pay Teachers to supplement our curriculum and provide their children with high quality, well researched, and engaging lessons that teach the Common Core State Standards. 

Back To School Night - What I Don't Want Parents To Know - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

They don't know that I got rid of my teacher desk because I needed more room to teach in small groups.  Or that I went to school more than fifteen days this summer to work on my classroom.  They don't know that I learned how to recover furniture just so I could take a chair that someone was throwing out and recycle it into my read-aloud chair.

They.  Don't.  Know.  
And that's okay.  I don't want them to know.  As long as they know that their child is happy to come to school, and excited about learning, I'm happy.  

Exhausted, but happy.

It's going to be an amazing year.  I hope yours is, too!