Friday, August 19, 2016

Tips For 1st Year Teachers

I know how it feels to be a first year teacher. You are excited that you got a job teaching, but nervous on what to expect. Your head is full of questions and you're wondering how your year will go. Don't worry! Many teachers have been in your position and have survived to teach for many more years :)

I have been asked by friends and colleagues at work for advice on how I teach, manage the workload, etc. so I decided to share all my "secrets" in one post to make it easier to refer back to :) Of course I'm not an expert and I still have a lot to learn, but I did learn a lot (sometimes the hard way) during my first year and so will you! Whether you went through some teacher training or not, I hope the tips below will be useful. For more tips, please go here.

1. Sometime in the beginning of the school year, you should make a pacing guide/curriculum division using your school calendar and textbooks. This guide is a list of mini goals for the year on each subject you teach. For example, using my school calendar and looking through the textbook to figure out how many days each lesson/chapter will take to teach, I list the dates I plan to give my tests/ project due dates. You will get an idea of what you want to accomplish each marking period and this helps to avoid not finishing the curriculum.

2. This is optional, but I found it is helpful to go through the chapters and lessons of each subject you teach to get an idea of what topics you will be teaching and will have to find resources for. If you do this, you can have materials (games, worksheets, crafts, etc.) ready in advanced. This is also great if you plan to teach the same grade/ subject in future years ;)

3. I'm an organizational freak! I love to organize everything and as a teacher this is important. I remember seeing the chaos of some of my teachers when I was a student and would wonder how on earth they managed to not lose anything! Keeping all your files, desk, work bag, personal belongings organized will help you focus, find things easily, get more work done, etc. I use a separate flash drive just for work, a planner that I wrote about here, and a ton of folders to keep my stuff organized.

4. Spend your time in school wisely! Try not to get caught up in the teacher gossip and get some work done at school so you can relax at home. During my student's free time, I would try to grade, organize, clean, get materials ready, etc. My students even liked to help me at times which was great!

5. Get into a routine that works for you and your students. This will take a few weeks at least, but once a routine is made, everyone should know what is expected. For example, my students knew almost every Monday for ELA we would do a spelling worksheet, vocab practice page, grammar worksheet, read and discuss a short story, then free time (we had 3 periods of ELA).

My personal routine looked something like this last year and worked well for me. During prep in school:

Monday- make copies/ print and organize all the cw and hw I will need for the week, grade hw if I gave any on Friday

Tuesday- grade hw/cw, make tests, copy and print anything else I want to use during the week

Wednesday- same as above

Thursday- I had at least 1 test this day so I made it a priority to grade the tests on Thursday during prep to send home for parents to sign, grade hw/cw, make tests for tomorrow if I haven't already

Friday- grade spelling and grammar tests to send home Friday, grade hw/cw, print materials for next week to help in lesson planning

Friday/Saturday/Sunday- lesson planning and finding outside sources for classwork and homework

6. Give yourself a break once in a while! At home I try to get at least 1 task done everyday related to work like grade, find resources, work on class blog etc. If I don't feel like it, I give myself a break since we do a lot of work in school. Figure out how to balance your work and personal life so neither suffers!

7. Have some sort of reward system (I use a prize box) to manage student behavior.

8. There should be a club for teachers at dollar stores! I found a lot of great stuff like seasonal d├ęcor, prize box items, classroom/art supplies etc. and they are more affordable then actual teacher stores sometimes.

9. Some of my favorite websites for teachers are,,, and out if your school uses the last two to get the login info).

10. I'm a sarcastic person so I had to remind myself to keep the sarcasm at a minimum. Students may take it the wrong way! Also, be serious, but also silly. Students love it when we actually smile/laugh and know how to have fun. They will also enjoy learning and being in our company :)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The BIG Happy Planner Review (Teacher Style!)

Disclaimer: I bought all products mentioned in this post myself. I am not being compensated in any way for my review :)

I bought a NEW Happy Planner (you can read my review on last years HP here) and I wanted to share my thoughts on this new style and how it can be made teacher friendly :) As I mentioned last year, planners are a great tool for time management and helps to reduce a lot of stress. I feel like if I don't make plans for the day and write them down (I'm not into digital planning), then I end up wasting my day and I am not productive. You can keep track of daily, weekly, and monthly goals (big or small), remember important dates related to school/ college or work, plan for events/outings with family and friends, organize a cleaning schedule, etc. I use my planner for all the reasons above as well as for fun stuff like my TV show schedule, blog schedule, and pamper days :)

Why I prefer the Happy Planners over other brands:
- comes in different sizes and designs to suit many wants/needs
- completely customizable (you can add/take out pages, change covers, add ready made items such as stickers or DIY paper clips, dashboard, etc)
- anyone, whether you are a student, parent, or have a job, can use these planners to fit your lifestyle because it is so customizable
- compares extremely well to the popular Erin Condren planners, but are more affordable (especially if a coupon from Michaels or Hobby Lobby is used)

I got the 2016-2017 Stay Golden BIG Happy Planner from Michaels using a 50% coupon which brought the price down to around $18 (an excellent deal)! This 8.5" x 11" planner has 18 months of pages (July 2016-December 2017), sturdy, laminated covers and tabs, some dividers are treated with foil, 2016-17 year-at-a-glance calendar pages, unique monthly and weekly layouts, etc. To see a video of how this particular planner looks on the inside (or to purchase this directly from the makers) go here.

I LOVE the watercolor and gold foiling used throughout the planner because it gives it a more feminine look :p The tabs are also laminated in this planner so I didn't have to do it myself like I did in my last one. I also love how before each month's tab there is a currently section (reading, listening, going, loving, etc) which is fun to fill out and look back at. The top headers on each week's page is also blank, making it perfect for each person to customize. (My headers are Family, Personal, and Work). The BEST part in my opinion is the size. One thing I didn't realize when I bought my smaller HP last year was that the size would make it bulky to carry around. I didn't take it to work with me for this reason, but that shouldn't be a problem this time. Since this new planner is flatter, it won't take up a lot of space in my work bag, making it easier to plan on the go :) Because I love how this planner looks overall, I want to use it as a memory/ scrapbook and keep it once I am done with it!

Since I want to use 1 planner for everything (family, personal, and work) I came up with a way to make this planner teacher friendly. My school provides us with a green teacher lesson book, so there was no point in buying a separate teacher planner. However, I did buy the teacher accessory pack. This is great because it includes two big folders (my smaller folders that I bought for my last HP won't look right in this planner), big note pages (only 1 page is included in the planner), and checklists (which I will use to keep track of when students bring in required supplies, when I give out textbooks for the year, field trip and lunch money, etc.). Finally, a bunch of stickers are included in this pack ideal for teachers such as professional development, holiday, start of (seasonal) break, etc. I will need another pack eventually, but for now this pack will do.

I also bought some separate sticker packs, like the new seasonal value pack, (because I am still a child and love stickers :p) If you want to really personalize/decorate your planner like a scrapbook, I think stickers are an easy option. If you also plan to add your own pages, getting the big planner punch will allow you to do that. I have added some pages, like a monthly habit tracker, a goal planner page, and some other extras that I want to keep in my planner without having to fold them to fit in the folder I mentioned above.

If you need or LOVE planners as much as I do, I highly recommend using a Happy Planner! If you would like to buy your own HP or any accessories, check out your local Michaels or Hobby Lobby and use a 50%  or 40% off coupon to save some $.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Recipe for Success by Kamel el Mekki

Enjoy a video and my notes from one of my favorite speakers! May Allah make us successful in this world and the next. Ameen :)

Many Muslims unfortunately, want the bare minimum when it comes to Islam but aim high in regards to the dunya (worldly life). That is one extreme. The other would be those who belittle everything in this life, like a college degree. Live a balanced life. Be successful worldly and religiously. Get the best of both worlds!

Just because you are religious, that doesn't mean you can't be wealthy, have a nice car, or a degree. Many of the sahabah were millionaires during their time and according to their standards and ours ex. Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn Affan, and Abdur Rahman ibn Auf. Their millions helped Islam. For example, when the Prophet (SAW) asked who would help prepare the army and for him is Paradise, Uthman ibn Affan stood up and said he will donate 100 camels and the necessary supplies 7-10 times = 700-1000 camels!

You can take whatever you want with you to the next life, but you have to convert it to good deeds ex. laptop = sell it/ donate or use for dawah.

Surah Muminun #23

1. "Successful indeed are the believers."
- Sincerely believe in the kalimah, that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (SAW) is His servant and messenger. This ensures Paradise, even after sins are expiated in Hell. Those who remain in Hell forever are the ones who didn't believe in the kalimah.

2. "Those who are humble and focused in their prayers."
- Repeat the athan.
- Wudo prepares for the prayer and is an act of worship when done properly.
- Remove distractions. Don't test yourself and how much you can focus around distractions.
- Know that you are standing in front of Allah. The Prophet (SAW) said when you pray, Allah turns to look at you and Allah turns away, when you turn away, (with your heart/ head).
- Pray as if it is your last prayer. Imagine that a crazy person was going to shoot you as soon as you finished praying. Now you would take your time!
- Know what you are saying ie. the meaning.
- Learn different surahs/ supplications and alternate to avoid prayer becoming like a routine and done without much thinking.

2. "Those who avoid vain talk."
- The tongue is a small instrument which is dangerous and doesn't tire. Few people control their tongue/ words.
- Angels record everything we say (and do).
- Dangerous talk includes backbiting, gossiping, profanity, and lying.
- It was asked of the Prophet (SAW) what will most take people to Paradise?
1. taqwa, God consciousness and piety and
2. good manners ex. speaking good.
What will most lead people to Hell?
1. tongue and
2. sexual organs.
*The tongue could be used for good or bad!

3. "Calls Muslims and non-Muslims to Allah"

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Teaching Taught Me...

So I just finished my first year of teaching 3rd grade last week! I enjoyed teaching so much (as you can probably tell) that I will be going back for my second year in September inshAllah :)

As a first year teacher, I learned a lot about teaching and people in general. I wanted to share some of the things teaching taught me that others may find helpful.

1. This is obvious, but teachers, don't be too nice and easygoing from the beginning of the year. This has to do with classroom management a bit and I learned this the hard way. I am generally a nice person (but can be just as mean as I am nice) and have a lot of patience with younger people. But, if students see they can get their way easily, they will always expect this and complain a lot. Show them you are in charge of the classroom and THEY need to do as you say.

2. If my students got out of control, instead of raising my voice all the time, I would stay quiet and stare at them to get their attention. They actually thought this was creepy and stopped whatever they were doing :)

3. This quote is so true. Even students I didn't teach would come up to talk to me about their lives and give me hugs. If students (or children in general), see that adults care about them and not just their schooling, they will respect the teacher/adult more.

4. Expect to do things you never did before, like climbing a 8+ foot ladder. I'm not a fan of heights so when it came time to doing a bulletin board (that ends at the level of my head), I had to get over the fear of falling or being pushed off by students accidentally (since the gym door is directly to the left).

5. Our lessons will not go 100% as planned. You can have the most detailed or fun lesson planned, but things will happen unexpectedly, like interruptions, students not understanding the material, or students telling stories nonstop. I like to teach with very little "brain breaks" in between so once we are done, any extra time in the period can be break/free time for my students. If your lesson HAS to be done that day but the period ended, find some time in the day to finish it off or make some sacrifices.

6. Don't expect to know or remember EVERYTHING. If I didn't know something, I would look it up or tell my students I really don't know. When they would say I'm a teacher and should know everything, I would say that's not true. I'm human, not a robot so of course this isn't really possible. Feel comfortable making it known to even your students that you aren't perfect but you try your best.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity by Mohammad Faris

I have been a fan of since high school, so of course I was excited when I found out they were coming out with a book. From the very beginning of my reading of The Productive Muslim, I was not disappointed!

I consider this book to be a self help/ motivational book because it does motivate one to do better and improve oneself, especially with the practical tips given. This book is PACKED with a lot of information, practical tips, and visuals. I love the doodles (similar to these) at the end of each chapter that recaps the important points and can be used to go back to find something specific. There are also charts (like these) for readers to actually download and use. All the information is written and presented in an organized way with text boxes and charts, making it easy to follow.

I love that references to hadith have the sources clearly written (i.e Bukhari) and so do verses from the Quran. They both fit into the content of the book excellently and it doesn't feel like they were put in randomly (like some books I've read). The connection between Islam and "the real world" in this book is perfect. Again, everything feels right in its place.

My only minor complaint is that I did find some typos, but this isn't a big deal. Overall, a 5/5 from me. I highly suggest this book to all Muslims! I'm sure you will find some gold nuggets within this 200 plus page book :) I bought my copy from Amazon, and so can you!

My Notes

Productivity = Focus x Energy x Time

If you have focus and time, but you lack energy, you'll be too tired and lethargic to tackle your tasks. If you have a lot of energy and time, but lack focus, you'll be constantly distracted, jumping from one thing to another. If you have both energy and focus, but you don't have time, then you simply can't be productive. You need all three!

Misconceptions amongst Muslims about some Islamic concepts include: We should neglect this world, make dua and all will be well, when the tough gets going have patience, righteousness = acts of worship, and it's all written. None of these work the way we might think. The misconception that we should just make dua and all will be well doesn't work. We need to take action towards achieving a specific dua. For example, if you are looking for a job, you need to update your resume, improve your skills, network, AND make dua. If you are looking for a spouse, you need to take care and improve yourself, contact people who might know potential suitors, meet potential suitors, AND make dua. If you have exams, you need to study, revise, take practice exams, AND make dua.

Practical tips (I want to start/go back to)
1. Towards God consciousness- in every decision, ask yourself, "If Allah were to ask me about this decision, what would I say? How would I justify it?
2. Having trust in Allah- recite the dua for leaving the house (found here)
3. Showing gratitude to Allah- after every prayer, say this dua
4. Having patience- say this dua
5. Take power naps- a 3 hour nap (about 2 full sleep cycles) after dhuhr prayer works for me
6. Heat mapping- this is used to map out personal energy levels throughout the day so you can plan time for your daily tasks according to how much energy is required. A heat map can be downloaded at
7. Prioritize social time- 1. list all the roles you play (ex. Muslim, daughter, sister, aunt, colleague, teacher, friend, etc.), 2. score yourself from 1-10 on how well you are currently performing in each role, 3. find out what the minimum performance level is that Islam requires of you for each particular role 4. balance your roles so you are never below the minimum performance level in each role
8. Have life goals- use this chart to plan long term goals
9. Healthy habits- use this chart to break bad habits or start healthy habits
10. Develop 7 daily Islamic habits- read this article
11. Invest in an ongoing charity- earn good deeds even after your death by picking a project that will continue  to exist after you die, i.e. help in the building of a masjid, a school, orphanage, or well. Making automatic payments will make this easier in case you forget. Even a small amount done consistently is rewarding :)