‘Wish list’ to help stock classrooms

By Pamela Knudson January 12, 2022 07:01

Karina Rude, a teacher at Phoenix Elementary School, was quite surprised when she learned she would be receiving a fish tank for her special education classroom.

Rude had asked for the tank in response to an email from the school’s principal, inviting teachers to record items they want for their classrooms on a “wish list” set up by Katie Edwards.

Later, “when I got the note (from Edwards) saying it’s on its way, I thought, oh, my goodness, I can’t believe it,” Rude remembered.

Edwards had arranged for the 10-gallon tank to be installed in Rude’s classroom. The tank, the fish, chemicals, rocks and all the necessary supplies were donated by the PetSmart store managers in Grand Forks.

Rude uses the fish tank to teach her students “self-understanding” and as an incentive to help them learn positive behavior. For example, if they meet certain daily goals, their reward may be they get to feed the fish or add a decoration to the tank.


“Boy, it made a difference,” Rude said of the new feature in her classroom. “(Students) can see what they have to work for.”

“The students love it,” she said. For some, watching the fish is “a transition time” from a regular classroom to her special education classroom. “It gets them ready to work.”

The fish tank “is useful in a lot of ways,” she said, noting that, using the fish as an example, she teaches about “different behaviors, emotions and how we treat others.”

For some students, watching the fish has a “calming effect” and provides a good break in their routine, she said. “If you think back as a kid, it was fun to have something a little different.”

It’s all part of a program that Edwards started to provide Grand Forks public elementary school teachers with items not covered by their school supply budget. She asked principals to invite their teachers to place items on wish lists, which can be found at https://wishlist.com/l/8J1eLB or visit the Facebook page, search @gfteacherwishlist.

People who view the lists may donate the items, new or used, or contribute funds so Edwards can purchase them.

The idea for the teacher wish list sprang from conversations Edwards, the mother of a Discovery Elementary student, had with a couple of moms as they reviewed the school supply lists distributed before the start of school last fall.

“We wished we could do more for (the teachers) – and not just the teachers, but also the specialists,” such as gym teachers, librarians and speech therapists, because “they don’t get to put out a supply list at the beginning of the year; so they start with nothing,” Edwards said. “They don’t even get the tissues the other teachers get at the beginning of the year.”

Out-of-pocket spending

Nationwide, teachers spent an average of $750 out-of-pocket on school supplies during the ‘20-21 school year – the highest amount ever, according to the 2021 AdoptAClassroom.org survey of 5,400 U.S. teachers. About 30% of teachers spent $1,000 or more on school supplies.

Teacher spending has increased 25% since AdoptAClassroom.org began surveying teachers in 2015.

Another survey by Savings.com found that teachers spent an overall average of $511 per year on school supplies without reimbursement.

The Grand Forks Education Association, which represents the district’s 779 teachers, has never surveyed its members on the amount of money they spend purchasing items for their work, said the association’s president, Melissa Buchhop, but “I am guessing we fall in line with the national numbers.”

“I think it is pretty safe to say a majority of us spend a couple hundred (dollars), if not more, each year on our classrooms,” Buchhop said.

Rude, the special education teacher at Phoenix, is among those who buy things for their classrooms, she said. “The amount each year depends on how much I want to change the classroom. I’m thrifty; I go to garage sales.”

‘Overwhelming’ requests

The number of requests she’s received for the wish list was “overwhelming,” said Edwards, who enlisted her daughter’s Girls Scout troop in the project. “It almost brought me to tears, because it’s so sad. The things they’re requesting are so simple, and (are) easy things for us to provide for them.”

When she contacts teachers to clarify their requests, it’s common for Edwards to get responses such as: “I can’t believe you emailed me,” “I can’t believe you’re a real person” and “Are you a real person?,” she said. “They were, like, is this for real?”

Many teachers’ requests are for items “you wouldn’t even think of, like, laminating sheets,” she said, which “are expensive, and they have to buy multiples of them.”

She’s had requests for cardstock paper, white board erasers, fidget devices, and clipboards for doing work around the classroom, she said. “And lots and lots of books.”

A few teachers have requested things that make the classroom more inviting, she said, such as “string lights, so they can turn the harsh fluorescent lights off during the day and have a calmer (setting). Or board games and puzzles for days when it’s too cold for kids to go outside for recess.”

If she receives multiple requests for the same item, she chooses the recipient using a lottery.

“My heart goes out to (teachers) because they do make such an amazing environment for our kids – and especially this year with ArtWise being cut,” Edwards said. Teachers have asked for art supplies, such as oil pastels and watercolor paints.

“Those kinds of things aren’t provided any more because of the budget cuts,” she said.

In recent years, funds for classroom supplies have diminished, as school district officials search for ways to trim spending and achieve a balanced budget.

As part of the $4 million budget reductions implemented for this school year, the budget for districtwide supplies was reduced by 10% – from $252,000 last year to $228,000 this year, Berge said.

The budget was $250,000 in 2018-19 and $248,000 in 2019-20, he said.

Anonymous donations

Donors who give items for teachers on her wish list – or provide funds to purchase them – make their contributions anonymously, Edwards said. Donors do not know who specifically receives their gifts, and the recipients don’t know who gave them.

Edwards maintains anonymity “so all of the schools could benefit from it,” she said, noting that she also wanted “equity” across the district because parent involvement and donation vary among schools. Some schools already have wish lists, but teachers at those schools may also request items on hers, she said.

Her goal was to allow all elementary teachers to “ask for things without anybody knowing who was asking, and then you could just help, and you don’t know who you’re helping but you know it’s going to a local school.”

“It’s been really great,” she said. “The things that I have brought to the teachers, they are just so appreciative. … You just want to do everything for them, as hard they’ve had to work, especially these last few years.”

As part of her work with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, drop-off boxes are also being set up again at local Bully Brew locations to collect donated items for teachers, she said.

Edwards hopes to expand her wish list program into East Grand Forks, as well as to middle and high school teachers, she said.

“It’s been so rewarding. I hope I can do more for them.”

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How to Avoid Zoom Fatigue

Dr. Selena Kiser

Second grade teacher; Ed.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis

What is Zoom Fatigue?

Zoom fatigue is prevalent due to so many of our social encounters now moving online. While this type of video conferencing has been a lifeline for many, it also can be quite draining. Communication has never been easier, but people are relying on Zoom for work, school, and extra-curricular activities instead of getting together in person. The on-screen relationships do not provide the positive social stimulation and energy that you obtain from being together in person.

This is especially true for teachers and students. Novice and experienced teachers know that students learn best while being directly involved in the learning process. Teachers cannot read body language as they would in a face-to-face setting, and this is a disadvantage to video conferencing. By not being able to look into students’ eyes or picking up on social cues, this allows disengagement, fatigue, and loss of participation. Students are also young people, and they need consistent interaction and involvement while paying attention to the length and duration of online learning assignments.

While there are obvious reasons why Zoom fatigue is real, there are also scientific reasons as well that explain why we feel exhausted. According to Lee (2020), audio has been proposed as the main reason that video meetings are tiring. The millisecond delays negatively affect our interpersonal perceptions. This is without any technical issues or delays. Zoom meetings are here to stay in some capacity. In speaking with various educators, some have Zoom meetings most of their day. It is vital to find ways to combat Zoom fatigue and make it more engaging.

Tips to Prevent Zoom Fatigue

One of the simplest ways to fight Zoom fatigue is to turn on the camera to be more present and engaged. While sometimes this is not an option, being on camera allows everyone to be more involved and on target. Fatigue sets in during long periods of time on video conferencing, and below are ideas to combat the mental exhaustion from Zoom meetings:

Create Breakout Rooms when Applicable

This is a great way to simulate the traditional breakout or small-group sessions that many are used to when meeting in person. Many classes or meeting are generalized, and people lose interest if they are not directly involved in the discussion. Breakout rooms or breaking things down into smaller discussions can be more engaging for the people involved in the meeting. Teachers can use this in a myriad of ways for small-group learning. An example of this would be to work with a group of students that are on the same reading level, or work with students in an upper-level middle-school classroom on their math skills.

Build in Interaction

This is an effective way to allow students and teachers to listen intently and provide meaningful discussion within a Zoom meeting. Just as teachers realize that students will learn more when they are directly involved in the learning process, the same rule applies to teachers. Meeting participants will learn more when they are directly involved in the discussion in a Zoom meeting. Preparing specific questions or allowing students to question others is an effective example of how this creates positive interaction in a class meeting.

Set a Theme for the Zoom Meeting

Sometimes class meetings have information for the whole group and there is no way to break things down for a smaller group. Implementing a theme such as a tropical destination or something that everyone enjoys would be a neat twist on the traditional meetings. This can be as simple as changing the background or everyone wearing a themed top and something on their faces such as sunglasses, hats, or similar. These types of interactions are especially enjoyable for students. Another great idea would be to allow the students to decide on what theme to implement.

Implement Surveys During the Meeting and Utilize Feedback

These can be provided within the Zoom meetings to get immediate feedback from students. They can be distributed to students, parents, and other teachers. It is important to utilize the feedback to make necessary improvements. Feedback and ideas from fellow teaching colleagues, students, and parents is an amazingly effective measure in continual improvement and engagement in online learning.

Pre-Recorded Videos

Utilize pre-recorded videos where applicable so students can view this on their own time. Students have different levels of engagement and attention spans. Pre-recorded videos allow students and parents to complete the assignments on their own time. Providing a variety of assignments is also important in that one format is not always the only way to demonstrate a lesson. This perception goes back to teaching to different learning styles. While teachers are more limited in what can be done, they can still provide a variety of options when completing online lessons. Videos, written work, and allowing students to decide the best option are all ways to fight the arduousness of online learning.


Lee, Jena (2020.) A Neuropsychological Exploration of Zoom Fatigue. Psychiatric Times.

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How Parents can Support Kids through Transitions


Transitions are difficult for everyone, and they can be especially hard for young children. Big changes like moving, beginning a new school year, or shifting between in-person and remote learning are sure to have an impact. Even seemingly small adjustments that impact a child’s day-to-day life can be tricky to navigate.

If you can prepare your child in advance of a transition, the extra time to process it can help immensely. And even through unexpected changes, there are ways you can help your child work through their emotions and navigate a transition more smoothly. 

Here are three steps to help children process a change:

Discuss what to expect

It’s important to talk through how this change will impact your child’s life. Some topics to cover may include: 

  • Why this change is happening
  • What the benefits are
  • What the potential challenges are
  • How this may affect their daily routine

And be sure to give your child the opportunity to ask any questions they may have. Clearing up any uncertainties will help your child feel more comfortable with the transition.

Make a list of your child’s needs

Explore any aspects of the change that your child may be nervous about. Then, work together to come up with solutions that will help them navigate the transition. 

Your list will likely include physical needs as well as emotional ones—for example, if your child is preparing for a new school year, they may need a new backpack and school supplies, as well as an extra chance to reconnect with their friends beforehand. 

The opportunity to build the list together will help your child feel supported, and will demonstrate how to work through problems and create solutions.

Help your child check in on their emotions

Change often brings up a range of emotions that can be complex and difficult to navigate, especially for children. To help your child manage their emotions, the first step is to help them become more aware of how they’re feeling. 

Education.com has many social-emotional resources to guide students through this reflection process. For example, Education.com’s internal weather report activity helps students check in with themselves in a way that’s both tangible and fun. 

Education.com also provides simple strategies to help children work through difficult emotions. For example, they can use the BCOOL (Breathe-Calm-Okay-Observe-Love) method of self-calming, or other mindfulness techniques. Kids can also try the five-finger relaxation activity or making a calm down bottle.

Navigating transitions gets easier with practice, and following these steps can help your child strengthen their ability to adapt to change. For more tips and resources, check out Education.com’s worksheets and activities focused on social-emotional learning.

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17 Awesome St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Your Classroom


TOPIC: Holidays & Seasons GRADES: Elementary School:Lesson Plans

17 Awesome St. Patrick’s Day Activities for Your Classroom

You’re in luck with these educational projects. WeAreTeachers Staff on February 27, 2020St. Patrick's Day Activities for Teachers - WeAreTeachers

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that observes the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. This March 17th, why not incorporate the luck of the Irish into your classroom? If you’re looking for festive math, science, history, art, or English lessons, consider some of these St. Patrick’s Day activities, games, crafts, and lessons for your students.

Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!

1. Make a leprechaun corner bookmark.

While there’s something to be said for well-worn spines and dog-eared corners, teach your students to care for their books by using a bookmark to save their place. This little leprechaun is the perfect reading companion and is quite simple to make thanks to this awesome video tutorial. Read stories about leprechauns or play traditional Irish music while your students complete this craft.


2. Make music with rainbow shakers.

This activity may require you to do some prep work, including asking parents to send in empty paper towel rolls and volunteer a few other supplies (foam rolls, rice, and jingle bells), but the end result is worth it! It’s a rainbow shaker you can use to play music and it’s a great take-home project for the kids.

SOURCE: Happy Mothering

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3. Send your students on a scavenger hunt.

Get your students up and about, hunting for gold as they try to find the items on this free printable scavenger hunt. You can time the hunt, create groups, or even conduct the activity outdoors. To extend the fun, you might have your students decorate old tissue boxes as treasure chests in which they can store their findings. 

SOURCE: foodfunfamily

4. Create acrostic poetry based on Irish history.

St. Patrick’s Day is so much more than rainbows and shamrocks (although we do love those, too). Read a book on Irish history or watch these videos to introduce students to Irish facts. Then distribute acrostic poem templates with words like “leprechaun,” “shamrock,” and “St. Patrick” for your students to complete. They can share with the class when they are done.

5. Conduct a hands-on experiment with green slime.

A complex chemistry lesson disguised as an ooey, gooey free-for-all? Count us in! Choose from one of four slime recipes, all made from ingredients that can easily be found at your grocery store (although you may need to look elsewhere for St. Patty’s Day–appropriate glitter, sequins, and other holiday additions). Teach your students about the states of matter as they work or ask them to record their impressions and observations of this festive lab experiment.

SOURCE: Little Bins for Little Hands

6. Study the movement of water molecules with the rainbow ring experiment.

Demonstrate the movement of water molecules (and create a rainbow) through this clean yet colorful experiment. Ask your students to come up with a hypothesis and record the experimentation process in a notebook or on one of this site’s free, printable worksheets. One of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day activities!

SOURCE: Creating Readers and Writers

7. Make rainbows in your classroom—no rain required.

Image: Quarks & Coffee

Begin the lesson by explaining to your students how rainbows form. One option is to read aloud The Rainbow and You. Then, with a prism (or even a glass of water), sunlight, and the right angle, you can create rainbows on the floor, walls, and ceiling of your classroom. Adjust the amount of light and angles to vary the width and size of the rainbows. Have your students record their observations or draw pictures of the rainbows they’ve created.

SOURCE: Mom to 2 Posh Little Divas

8. Count your coins with a penny float experiment.

You don’t need gold coins to bring a little magic into science class—ordinary pennies will do! Using small plastic pots from your favorite craft store (plastic cups or aluminum foil will also do the trick), a container of water, and a couple of dollars in pennies, your students can learn about mass, volume, weight, and other measurements while feeling like leprechauns.

SOURCE: Little Bins for Little Hands

9. Spin Irish yarns with these story starters.

Inspire your students to think creatively and write a story about what they would do if they found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Encourage them to think about the characters, conflict, and resolution in their tales. Either paste the story on cauldron cut-outs or use Word to create a simple lined page with a festive border. See a thorough lesson plan here

SOURCE: apples & abc’s

10. Think critically about how to catch a leprechaun.

Critical thinking? Check. Creativity? Check. Glitter? Check. Ask your students to devise a clever plan to catch a leprechaun by practicing sequence writing and the imperative voice. What materials do they need? What would their trap look like? Have them present their ideas to the class and follow up with a class discussion about the best leprechaun-trapping tactics. Take this one step further by splitting your class into groups of three or four students and have them build the traps they imagined.

SOURCE: First Grade Fairytales  and Little Bins for Little Hands

11. Shade shamrocks to practice synonyms, antonyms, and homophones.

In English class the answers are rarely black-and-white, so why not make them green (and red and orange)? Teach your students about synonyms, antonyms, and homophones with this shading shamrock worksheet. Alternatively, prepare shamrock cutouts and have your students write words on one side of the shamrock with the accompanying synonym, antonym, or homophone on the other.

SOURCE: Everything Education

12. Go green by turning old milk jugs into planters.

You don’t need to sport a top hat and coat to go green this St. Patrick’s Day. Teach your students the importance of conservation and recycling by having them plant herbs or flowers in old plastic milk jugs. If possible, do this project outside to celebrate the warmer weather and ask your students what plants need to grow and remain healthy. Encourage them to make a list of small actions they can do every day to protect the planet.

SOURCE: Cupcakes & Cutlery

13. Count your gold on math worksheets.

You don’t have to stray too far from your usual curriculum in order to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. These upper-elementary math worksheets cover third- through fifth-grade-level core math concepts, such as multiplication and division, fractions, and whole number operations—all while centered on the theme of St. Patrick’s Day.

SOURCE: Kelly McCown

14. Make a Lucky Charms bar graph.

With this easy-to-prep activity, your students can practice counting and graphing while enjoying a sweet treat. For a class of 15–20 students, two boxes of Lucky Charms cereal will suffice. Then you just need a measuring cup, crayons, and a simple graph drawn on paper. Have your students count and record the number of marshmallows they find. Then have them share the results with the class. You can also easily turn this activity into a lesson on fractions or probability.

SOURCE: How to Homeschool My Child

15. Look for luck with a four-leaf clover hunt.

What better excuse to get outside on an almost-spring day than going on a four-leaf-clover hunt? If you’ve got a grassy area by your school’s playground, take your students outside to first assemble this tiny book of clover facts before searching for a four-leaf-clover of their own.

SOURCE: Green Grubs Garden Club

16. Work your poetry chops by writing limericks.

Print these simple limerick instructions and have your students write their own to present them to the class. This activity is great for upper elementary school and middle school students, alike.

SOURCE: education.com

17. Learn an Irish step dance.

Show your students a video clip or two of professional Irish step dancers before breaking down the steps with an easy-to-follow tutorial. This is a great activity for gym class or any time you notice your students getting a bit restless. The steps may be complicated, but your students will enjoy being on their feet and listening to traditional Irish music. 

SOURCE: Fresh Plans

We promise you’ll have good luck with any one of these St. Patrick’s Day activities. Have any others you’d like to share? Visit our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook to share your ideas. 

Plus, check out fun STEM activities for St. Patrick’s Day and our free St. Patrick’s Day alphabet printable.

17 Awesome St. Patrick's Day Activities for Your Classroom

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What Are You Waiting For?


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Fundraising for Schools Proves Difficult in COVID Era


Author: Niko Clemmons

Published: 6:52 PM EDT October 20, 2020Updated: 6:52 PM EDT October 20, 2020

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Not only have families and teachers had to adjust to COVID-19 this school year, so have Parent-Teacher Associations. Many said the pandemic is making it harder to raise money.

Right now, PTAs cannot do those events and fundraisers they normally would do every fall. One big challenge for PTAs is fundraising.

Erin Larson is the PTA President at Norge Elementary School in Williamsburg-James City County. “We’re really trying hard to figure out what we’re going to do for our fundraising efforts,” Larson said. “We’re just hoping to make it by this year.”

Larson reached out to community members through social media, asking for face mask donations. She said Norge has a fundraising opportunity coming up where they would normally give baked goods in exchange for donations, but that’s not an option because of COVID-19.

“I’m struggling with asking people for money now, a lot of people are hurting,” Larson said. “I don’t want to say it feels in poor taste to ask for donations from our families because they’ve always been supportive, but we need them to know we understand where they are.”

Rayna Labine, the PTA president for Magruder Elementary School in York County, said this year is a lot different because there are no volunteers allowed in the school, so they’re trying to go virtual with fundraising.

She said their fundraising this year has been Spirit Nights with local businesses. They are planning to work with Apex fundraising in February/March but waiting to see if restrictions will lighten but expecting it to be a virtual event of some sort.

“Bringing local businesses into the fold is also something we are open to do and have a fundraising platform called Memberhub, in which PTA members get discounts on items through the web,” Labine said. “This has been a work in progress as we hope to build the community ties with the elementary school to help one another.”

Labine went on to say, “In April, we did apply for a Tik ToK grant and we were granted $5,000 to help Magruder. We allocated $4,600 to purchase iPads, iPad cases and two-year protection, 2,000 disposable masks, and then $400 to the social services of the school to help with internet and electricity help while the families were getting online. Grants are another way to help PTA’s with funds to help the families and students. 

“We continually have meetings once or twice a month to come up with more creative ideas to help students and families come together.”

Ashley Smith, the president of Yorktown Elementary Magnet School PTA, said they’re trying to get creative to recoup lost fundraising opportunities, but the biggest difference this year is communication. Right now, they’re doing Falcon Birthday visits, visiting students at pre-arranged times.

“As an organization, it breaks our hearts not being able to reach all of our families,” Smith said. “Normally we’d be knocking on restaurant doors, doing spirit nights, walk-a-thons, and other things and we’re not even allowed near a building.”

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Teachers Share the Funniest Compliments They’ve Ever Received From Kids

Why, thank you. Hannah Hudson on February 19, 2021Gray background with quote that says, "You look young for an old person."

Our students can be the absolute sweetest, but they can also be unintentionally hilarious when trying to deliver a compliment. We asked teachers to share the funny compliments they’ve received from kids, and here’s what they had to say.

You’re so soft

While being hugged around the middle by a first grader, she sweetly said “you are soft like my mom.” —Brandi M.

What’s that smell?

My classroom sink has a bit of a funky smell. When two former students came by, one said to the other, “Whoa, I remember this smell! It smells like…(long, thoughtful pause)…learning!” Now I love my funky smelling sink. —Latane D.

Naturally gorgeous?

Me: *decides to let my natural waves show in my hair*

9th grader: *comes up to my desk with a conspiratorial look* “It’s okay, miss. I didn’t brush my hair today, either.” —Amara G.

Maybe it’s my center part?

One very sweet student once said to me, “You look young for an old person.” —Hayley J.

“Thanks for not being annoying”

Because it was from a 14-year-old boy, it’s also my highest praise. —Carol H.

Say what now?

On a field trip, I took a child to a public bathroom. I used the bathroom while he used the stall next to mine. He told me I had beautiful-sounding pee. —Amy H.

“I like your face”

A kindergartener once walked by me and said, “I like your face.” I taught fourth grade on the other side of the building. —Kelly G.

I guess kids don’t get fashion

I wore a long, belted sweater, and at the end of the day a little boy said, “Bye, I really liked your bathrobe today.” —Sherry A.

Would take as a genuine compliment

“You’re a dictionary with hair.” —Kath G.

Points for knowing the animal kingdom

“You’re pretty nice for a middle-aged mammal.” —Elizabeth N.

You’re the GOOD kind of crazy

Another teacher overheard some kids telling a new student about me. “You have Miss S.? She’s crazy, but you know, the GOOD kind of crazy.” Someday I want that stitched on a pillow. —Hillary S.

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We’re always looking for ways to stay in touch with you which is why we’re officially back on Twitter. We’ll be sharing updates and any fun, relevant information we think you’ll love. If you haven’t already, download the Twitter app, create an account, and give us a follow @Yubbler to stay up to date. This is your personal invitation to stay connected with us. 

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Yubbler’s 1st Contest Winner: North Park Elementary!


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