December 2015 | Teaching in the Tongass

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

lice in the classroom

If you teach, you know how stressful having a case of head lice in your classroom can be. Heck, even in your neighbor teacher's classroom. Is your head itching yet?

First, I want to let you know that 1.) I am not a health professional. I am a teacher. This is simply my own experience and 2.) There are many controversies and thoughts regarding lice, so if you disagree with something in this post, please feel free to click elsewhere ;) and finally 3.) If you have something to add that might be helpful for other teachers, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
This may sound like a no-brainer to some people, but the first time my class had head-lice, I didn't even think about it. I just assumed that if a kid had lice, they would go home and have it treated and come back the next day. Simple, but not true. Not every school or school district policy on head lice is the same. Some allow students to stay (shocking, right?). Some allow students to stay, but only if they have nits and no live lice. Some have parents pick their children up right away at any sign of lice. Check your own school policy so you're informed (they might even have a required letter you have to send home like mine does).  In fact, lice has been handled very differently every year I've taught. Some nurses came down and checked my whole class for lice with a giant, light up magnifying glass and gloves, while others basically told me to figure it out on my own (RUDE) and gave parents incorrect info on how to get rid of lice. Whatever you do, make sure you check what your school or district policy is (especially for your own protection--you wouldn't want to be in the middle of a legal issue regarding head lice). Also, not all administrators even know the actual policy, so if your district has a website or someone you can actually call, I would do that first.

Also, this sounds like a no-brainer, but it can slip past some people so I feel like it's worth mentioning. Not only do you need to notify the family of the student who has head lice, but the rest of your class. This is because there is a good chance that other students also have it. So, a letter/email/phone call home is a good idea. It's also important to know that lots of families are misinformed about how people get lice and who can get it (lice doesn't discriminate--those buggers could care less about how fancy of a car you drive, what color your skin is, or whether or not you showered today). It's imperative that you educate families on 2 things: how lice is spread and how to get rid of it.
Just like adults, students need to be educated about lice. Obviously, this can be a sensitive issue, so you won't be pointing fingers at anyone.  If you don't already own this book, Bugs in my Hair by David Shannon (yep, that's right!), I highly recommend it. It's a great way to introduce the topic to your class any time of year (I make it a point to read it at the beginning of the year as a preventative measure). If you don't know much about lice, I recommend spending a few minutes educating yourself (you wouldn't want to be giving incorrect information to your students/families, right?). One common myth is that lice can jump. They can't. This means that just because you are sitting near someone that has lice, you shouldn't be worried that one will jump across to your head. I of course wouldn't recommend rubbing heads together (or hugging for that matter), but that little fact can be helpful to know. Here is the website I trust regarding current and research proven information: CDC Head Lice
(Amazon affiliate link is included above). 
If you are like most teachers, you try to create a comfy, yet clean learning environment for your students. I get it. Me too. So, once you find out there is lice, shove any pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. into a garbage bag for 2 weeks (your garage is a great place for lice to die).  They can't live for more than 2 days without food, but the recommendation is 2 weeks, so roll with it. And, for the sake of your own sanity, especially if lice doesn't seem to be going away throughout the year, I recommend getting rid of every fabric-covered item that isn't essential. As far as what parents are supposed to do at home, please, again, make sure they're educated or it will just be brought right back into your room (the cycle of having to deal with this over and over should be terrifying enough). 
Now that you've taken care of the classroom and done your best to make sure your kids and their families know how to prevent it from spreading and treat it properly, make sure you don't have it! Ask your school health nurse, spouse, coworker, etc. and make sure they know what they're looking for (spare them a disgusting Google images slideshow and just save 1 photo to your phone to show them for reference). They should be looking for nits and lice. I keep a comb in my classroom just for this occasion (sad, right?). I'm pretty sure all of my family members have had the pleasure (haha) of checking my head whenever I feel a tad bit itchy (catch it when there's only 1 and you'll save yourself from a nightmare!). And if you have long enough hair to wear it in a ponytail/bun, start doing it immediately.

So that's it! I tried to break down my process and how I attempt to deal with this chaos, but if you have something helpful to add, please feel free to leave a comment!

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

make your own holiday cards

In a few instances, I like to save money. Okaaaay, in almost all instances. You too? I thought so. If you're a teacherpreneur, well, heck, even if you're not, this is something you can do. I've even made it a tutorial you might want to send to your mom (you're welcome Mom!) so she can quit with the awful comic-sans-on-premade-holiday-letterhead-printer-paper holiday card (and yes, Mom, it's time to stop doing that).
First, a word of caution: If you don't have Powerpoint or it looks different, I'm sorry. This tutorial may not be for you :( But, if you do, please feel free to read on!

A few weeks ago I realized it was a beautiful (albeit overcast) day here in Juneau, Alaska, so I knew I had to take advantage of the light. We loaded up the car and headed to our favorite camping spot out the road to take some Christmas photos. I brought my tripod, set my camera timer to 10 seconds and ran back and forth (with the toddler often chasing me and me having to grab him on the way back--which resulted in happy giggling all around anway). Sidenote: if your camera has the capability of using a remote (mine does not, but I have used them and they make it easier for family portraits!), you can grab a cheap one for less than $10 from Amazon here. All in all it was actually pretty fun and I have some frame-worthy photos that really capture both my kids' personalities. So, after you get your photos taken (if you haven't already), you'll be all ready for making the cards!

Open Powerpoint and go to File--->New Presentation
 Go to File--->Page Setup
Change the page to the size you'll be printing your photos (you'll need to decide whether they'll be 4x6 or 6x4 (landscape or portrait).
 Select and delete these default text boxes.
 Drag and drop (or Insert--->Picture) your background and photos. I pay for an annual subscription to stock photos, so that's where I found the background I used. If you don't subscribe to a stock photo club for commercial purposes like I do, you can probably find a free holiday background with a quick Google search.
 If you want to crop them, look for the square "Crop" button (you have to click the photo first) and crop the photo as you see fit by dragging the corners inward and clicking "Crop" again.
 Now that you've cropped your photos, you might want to add a border so they "pop" out a bit more. When you click on the photo, you'll see some formatting options above. I used the "Simple Frame, White" option. However, I didn't like how thick the border was, so I needed to change the border size.
 Go to Format--->Picture.
 In the "Line" options, go to the Weights & Arrows tab and change as you see fit (I changed mine from a "7" to a "4").
 Drag and rotate to where you'd like. Have fun playing around!
 Now for the words! Go to Insert--->Text Box.
 Type what you want and if you want to change your font, select your font and then use the dropdown font menu in the upper left.
 See how my font doesn't stand out very well against that wood background?
 Go to Format--->Font.
 In the "Text Glow & Soft Edges" option, I change the color to white and play with the size and transparency until I think it looks okay.
 I also like to add a "Text Shadow" to make it stand away from the background.
 See how a few formatting changes to font can really make a difference?
 Add some more photos or text...
 When you've finished your card, you'll need to save it as an image. Go to File--->Save as Pictures.
 When you save it, make sure you are saving it as a TIFF file (you'll change it later, but this is for anyone that wants better clarity---raise your hand teacherpreneurs!).
 Open that file up after you've saved it. Go to File--->Export.
 Change the format from TIFF to JPEG.
 Slide the Quality bar all the way to Best.
 Ta-da! A high-quality holiday card you can be proud of!!! Upload to your favorite photo print place and order just like you would your regular photo prints (Shutterfly often has 101 FREE 4x6 promo deals--you just pay shipping--so I subscribe to their emails and pay close attention around November/December) to save BIG on this year's holiday cards. Or you could fork over a few bucks and just order them, too. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial! Happy holidays!!!
And if you're in need of a Powerpoint template for address labels (yes, I hate MS Word that much), you can grab one below. 
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