Treasure Box Alternatives: Sitting at the Teacher's Desk

Sitting at the Teacher's Desk

Let's get real for a minute.  Who ever sits at that desk, really?  Other than the occasional "Let me look for that Pinterest picture" moment, or the times you grade papers on your lunch break, no one sits there. Seriously. So why not put that space to some use during the day?

I know there's a whole movement about getting rid of your teacher desk to make way for more student space, but I'm not quite there yet. I'm willing to admit that I rarely (if ever) sit there, but I still like having a space to spread papers, toss To-Do-Later items, and display office supplies in pretty jars. So, until I jump aboard the no-desk bandwagon and get rid of my desk entirely, I'll continue use it as a student incentive. 

Teachers that I mention this idea to nearly always respond the same way: "I'd be afraid they would touch my things!"  Now, know everyone's class is different, but my experience in letting kids sit at my desk has always been positive. 

First of all, this is not a first month of school option. I make sure students know me and my expectations very well before introducing my desk as an option for students' work space.  Letting kids sit at your desk is not the time to practice defining boundaries!  (Granted, there will always be a student that you would give your car keys and ATM card to from Day 1, but I'm talking about the entire class in general.) 

I would only begin letting students sit at your desk after they have demonstrated the ability to show respect for the rules and procedures of your classroom. Once that happens, my students are in awe of how much I trust them, and even my most wild child will work extra hard to show that he/she is worthy of sitting at this place of honor. I've never once been afraid that a student will take or break something from my desk. Like I said, it's an honor they want to prove themselves worthy of, and they will most often do their very best work while sitting there! (This could also be because they are separated from other distractions, like chatty table mates.)

Depending on the size of your desk chair (last year I used a director's chair at my desk), you can often fit two kids behind your desk at once.  Two first graders on the smaller side fit easily in my director's chair. 

Once the lesson/independent work time was over, I'd tell the student(s) at my desk, "Okay, time to go back to your own desk!" And they'd quietly gather their notebook and pencil box and happily trot back to their own desk again. A single student will rarely sit at my desk for the entire day, but I will rotate different kids, allowing a handful the opportunity over the course of a morning or afternoon. 

Even if you have reservations about it, I would urge you to give it a try. Start with your most responsible student, and let him/her model respectful behavior.  But given the chance, I bet even your most troublesome student will thrive and complete his/her best work while sitting behind your desk. 

Tips for Positioning Bulletin Board Letters

BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Test to make sure your painters tape will not tear your bulletin board paper when peeled off of it!  Some of the thinner (read: cheaper) bulletin board paper won't stand up against painters tape/masking tape.

1. Measure out a piece of tape the length of your bulletin board.

2. Remove the tape after finding the appropriate length, and then place it down on a table where you have room to lay out your letters.  (Here I've bypassed the use of my Cricut to use the pre-cut letters from Lakeshore.)

3. Arrange your letters across the tape, spacing them however you'd like them to be on your bulletin board.  Once you've found the correct spacing and positioning of letters, slide them under your tape (as shown below).

4. Gently peel the strip of tape off the table, taking your letters along with it, and carefully take it across the room to the bulletin board you're working on.

5. Position the painters tape on your bulletin board, to where where you'd like your letters to ultimately be affixed. Staple the letters to the bulletin board while everything is still taped to the wall.

6. After stapling your letters to the wall, carefully remove the painters tape, leaving the letters behind in exactly the right place!

Teachers' Back to School To-Do Lists

I know these types of Back-to-School lists are very different for every teacher, depending on the type of school you teach at, your grade level, your classroom configuration . . . I could go on and on.  But these are MY Back-to-School To-Do Lists, which hopefully will help you to create your own (or perhaps remind you of something you'd forgotten)!

Go Shopping:
✏︎ Composition books in specific colors (green for math, yellow for spelling) from Target ($0.50 apiece)
✏︎ Student Work folders (from whichever office supply store has them on sale the cheapest)
✏︎ Primary Writing Journals from Dollar Tree ($1.00 apiece)
✏︎ Extra boxes of Crayola Crayons and Glue Sticks (because we always need extra)
✏︎ Rolls of fadeless bulletin board paper from Lakeshore
✏︎ Rolls of corrugated borders from Lakeshore
✏︎ Name plates for desks
✏︎ New birthday poster & "Who lost a tooth?" poster
✏︎ ALL THE THINGS in the Target Dollar Spot 😉
✏︎ Stress balls for students who may need help calming themselves down
(I usually also buy myself a new set of colorful Sharpies, and a new box of my favorite pens, regardless of how many I have stashed in a tub in my classroom already.  Just because it makes me happy.) 

Once I Have My Roster:
★ Update class website with students' birthdays
★ Write names on Birthday Poster
★ Pre-Write names on Happy Birthday certificates (keep in a page protector and hang next to
     Birthday poster)
★ Create Star of the Week calendar/schedule
★ Update class website with students' Star of the Week date
★ Update ClassDojo with new class
★ Create/look up student accounts for online programs:
          - Spelling City
          - Read Theory
          - Accelerated Reader (AR)
          - Mathletics
★ Create labels for workbooks and journals:
          - Writing Journals
          - Math Journals
          - Spelling Journals
          - Math Workbook
          - Handwriting Workbook
          - ELA Workbook
★ Create labels for filing tabs (for completed work bin)
★ Write names on desk name plates
★ Write names on die-cuts for Welcome Back bulletin board
★ Create new Class Jobs board with student names
★ Print and laminate website password cards
★ Create student supplies checklist for first day of school

More Getting Ready:
✓ Prepare Math Journals:
        Pre-number pages
        Affix ruler tape to cover
✓ Prepare Spelling Journals:
        Stamp top corners of pages with letter stamps
        Cut dividers from card stock, glue inside

Classroom Set Up & Decoration
✓ Plan theme/color scheme
✓ Put up bulletin board paper and borders
         ✜ Star of the Week 
         ✜ Calendar
         ✜ Welcome Back to School
         ✜ Religion
✓ Arrange desks and tables depending on class size
✓ Clean tops and insides of desks
✓ Number desks with Sharpie Paint Pens
✓ Pull textbooks out of cabinet, lay on corresponding numbered desk
✓ Hang bunting banners across windows
✓ Hang "Lost a Tooth" & Happy Birthday poster
✓ Prep classwork folders with highlighters (see my post HERE on how I do this)

Get My Personal Life in Order:
♡ Drop of dry-cleaning for first week of school
♡ Plan outfits for first week of school
♡ Get car washed (it makes me feel like I have my act together, regardless if it's true or not)
♡ Make hair appointment (for those of us who have let our highlights grow out over the summer and
     need our roots touched up) 😊
♡ Reload Starbucks app (so there are no delays in getting your morning coffee)

This is what I have so far, although I'm quite sure I will be revisiting these lists to add things as I think of them.  Include things you believe I need to include in the comments section below!

Hand-Painted Teacher's Pencil Shoes

My hand-painted pencil shoes have been receiving a lot of attention lately, especially after being featured by @targetteachers' Instagram!  They've received more likes and comments than any other picture I've posted on Instagram, and have been the subject of countless direct messages from followers who want more information about how I made them.  Well, here is everything you need to know about making your very own pair!

{If you aren't up to the task of making your own, order a pair from me on Etsy!

Start with a pair of white canvas shoes. I bought mine from Target for $16 or $17. I believe Walmart also sells an inexpensive pair as well. You will also need:
~ Acrylic paint: Pink, Yellow, Gold (or very light brown/tan) Black, and Green
~ Paintbrushes: One very small, and one medium-sized
~ Painters tape/masking tape
~ Mod Podge

Remove the laces from your shoes before you begin. Then use painters tape (washi tape will work too, in a pinch) to mark the edges of the pink "eraser" portion of your shoes.  Line up your shoes to ensure you mark both shoes at roughly the same place.

Paint the heel of each shoe pink.  I needed to use several coats of paint, but you'll be able to tell exactly where you may need a little more coverage once it dries. (As a rule of thumb, I like to let each coat of paint dry before adding another layer.)

After completing the heels, I move on to paint the rest of the shoe yellow, taking extra care between the shoelace holes and along the edge of the rubber sole. I like to use a tiny (like, really tiny) brush for these areas, and then a larger brush (like the size that comes with most kids' watercolor trays) for the bigger areas of canvas.  I found that it also helps to thin the paint a bit with water when getting into the trickier areas. (Keep in mind however, the more you dilute the paint, the greater the number of paint layers you'll need to apply.)

It's not necessary to go all the way to the edge of the toe, since this area will be painted two other colors.  (But don't forget to paint the top of the tongue flap inside as well!)

Here I made a scalloped line with my paintbrush before filing in the toe area with more gold paint. There is a twinge of shimmer in the gold paint, but once the entire shoe is finished it looks nice and just adds a bit of dimension (not flashy at all). 

Finish filling in the rest of the toe with gold paint to represent the wood of a sharpened pencil.

Just like I did with the gold scallops, use a tiny paint brush to draw a slightly curved line with black paint to mark where the black will go.  Start off making your line closer to the tip of the shoe, rather than further. (That way you can just add a bit more paint if you don't like the curve you made, or if one toe is a bit different from the other. 

When doing the toes, I like to keep both shoes side by side so I can ensure both the left and the right shoes are painted evenly. 

Let everything dry again before going back to touch up any areas that need a bit more coverage. (As I said before, it's a lot easier to tell where you need an additional coat once it's completely dry.)

Once you've added all the extra coats of pink, yellow, gold, and black, and everything is completely  dry, it's time for the trickiest part of all: the double green lines, and the black No. 2.  Again, do not begin this step until the yellow paint is absolutely, 100% dry. (Trust me. You will mutter - or scream - words that are not appropriate for the classroom.)  If you paint over wet yellow paint with black paint, the colors will bleed together in a rush of swirled liquid, while you watch the lines of your carefully crafted "N" (the beginning of No. 2) travel half an inch across the canvas. 

If this does happen: carefully blot the offended area with a paper towel, and let everything dry. (Yes, it will still look pretty messed up at this point.) Then, once dry, paint over the messed-up area with yellow paint. You may need several coats to cover your mistake, but it should cover eventually. Then try again! (And even if there is a faint smudge peeking through the yellow, no one is going to notice once the shoes are on your feet.)


When painting the No. 2 and the green stripes, use a veerrrrrryyy thin paint brush. I also recommend thinning the paint a bit so that the brush glides easily across the canvas of the shoe. If you need to, you can write it with a pencil first, and then paint over the pencil marks.  (You could even do the whole thing with a black Sharpie if you'd like, but I personally prefer the look of paint.)

For the green stripes, I drew them on with my paintbrush free-hand, but you could also use painters tape to ensure a perfect line. 

Once again, allow both shoes to completely dry. Then, use a thick paintbrush to coat the entire surface with a (not thin, but not too thick either) layer of Mod Podge.  I used two layers, letting everything dry between coats. And don't panic when it appears that you are ruining your handiwork with a milky-white layer of glue. It will all dry clear, and prevent the paint from running off your shoes the second you get hit with a neighbor's lawn sprinkler while walking your dog. 

{That being said, THESE SHOES ARE NOT WATERPROOF.  The Mod Podge will make the paint fairly water-resistant, however if the weather forecast calls for rain, I recommend leaving the pencil shoes at home.}

Good luck!  I would love to see your creations! If you post them on Instagram, please tag me @firstgrademenagerie so I can get a peek!