how teachers prepare for a new school year

August 16, 2011

When I was growing up, I had no idea what teachers had to do for their jobs. In fact, I kind of just thought they showed up, had fun with kids, and graded spelling tests in their spare time. Really? That’s it? I could totally do that in my sleep. Right? Right.

Seeing as I also thought most teachers lived at school and didn’t have a life outside of it (do you ever remember seeing teachers outside of the building? Weeeeiiird!), they had to be doing more than that. There was no way they could possibly fill their time doing only menial tasks.

So, I figured I would be as good of a teacher as anyone else could be! Um, I don’t know what I was thinking but it’s kind of hard work. Like, for real — and can I be perfectly honest in telling you I never really “got it” until my student teaching? Trying to get 21 different personalities and learning styles/abilities to all mesh well into one class is pretty difficult. Not to mention behavior problems.. oh, and actually teaching them stuff so they’ll be smart cookies.August 25, 2010 009

The start of a new school year is always like a new beginning. I was always so excited to go back to school (nerd alert!), and guess what! As a teacher, I am still excited for the start of a new school year. I swear it has nothing to do with getting new school clothes (okay, maybe a little bit). But have you ever wondered what teachers have to do before the start of a new school year? Here’s a few:

1. Write Postcards — The second I get my class list, I start writing “Welcome to 5th Grade” postcards to each one of my students. The day the class lists are posted, I mail them to my students. This (usually) helps them to get more excited about going back to school, being in my class, etc. Nothing like starting off on a positive note!

2. Label Everything — Like seriously, everything. Lockers, folders, desks, popsicle sticks (for pulling out of a cup when I want to randomly call on people), grade books, homework incentive charts… the list can go on and on for days. The funny thing is that I have my class list memorized alphabetically before the first day of school even arrives. While my hand hurts, my life is a little bit easier.
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3. Update files from the previous year — There is no way I want to send home a letter to parents with the “2010-2011” school year on it for the “2011-2012” school year! I have to go through all of my computer files to update the ones I need right away. I also have to update my Microsoft Outlook with my class parents’ emails (to email them all about how awesome their kid is!), and update my grade book from the previous year.

4. Decorate Classroom — While I (finally) did not have to switch schools or classrooms this year, at the end of the year, we really have to take down the majority of our decorations so cleaning/painting/summer stuff can occur for the custodial staff. I also think of new bulletin boards/posters I want to hang in my room over the summer, so each year my room looks a little bit different. Not to mention I have a problem with re-arranging furniture.
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5. Gab with Other Teachers — It’s not just a rumor… teachers really like to talk. Most of the time, I don’t get to see my co-workers for almost three months, so it’s fun to stand around, catch up, and talk about what happened over the summer!

Of course there are many other things teachers have to do to get ready for the school year, but those are my top priorities before the kids arrive! Everything else is just a minor detail and can be focused on later.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some kids to meet today at our open house event!

{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren @ What Lauren Likes August 16, 2011 at 7:10 am

How cute! you are very organized :) have fun at the open house!

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gabriella @ embracement August 16, 2011 at 7:16 am

I absolutely thought my teachers lived in the building and was shocked when I saw the first one outside. Such a hard, incredibly important job! I overheard a woman at the gym talking to a teacher about what a “glamorous” job she had once. I think the average person doesn’t even realize the amount of work you guys do! I used to want to do early education and then I seriously questioned my patience level.

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Faith @ For the Health of It August 16, 2011 at 7:18 am

Girl you are a special breed to be able to teach! Ed was my major for a while and I loved working with older kids at camp, but teaching every day for life? Not my thing. It’s a super under-respected profession though – so much work goes into it! Major props for being so prepared…hope this year goes as smoothly as possible for you!

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Lindsay@LivingLindsay August 16, 2011 at 7:19 am

I was a Kindergarten teacher and I was absolutely HORRIBLE at organization. My friend Erin is a 2nd grade teacher and her room looks just like yours. It isn’t easy so I give you loads of credit. And it’s a lot of work – people often don’t realize how hard it is to make a classroom look really put together. :)

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Cait August 16, 2011 at 7:23 am

omg i love the room girl :) it’s always fun for me to see what others have created and i get some great ideas! i love the ‘help wanted’ poster! good luck at open house tonight!

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Cait @ Beyond Bananas August 16, 2011 at 7:24 am

YAY! I can’t get back into my room to set up until Thursday .. but now I am more excited! Love your help wanted/on vacation idea.. and newspaper.. what a cost efficient background!!

Love how you mentioned “smart cookies..” I found a Smart Cookie bulletin board set – with a jar and cookies for the students name at Target for $2!!!

One other thing I always do is.. laminate everything!!! That way I can write on things with dry erase markers.. clean em.. and keep things for (hopefully) years!

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Molly August 16, 2011 at 7:40 am

your classroom is so cute. I’m sure you’re a fabulous kindergarten teacher. What an important job you have! Sculpting our future. :)

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Claire @ Live and Love to Eat August 16, 2011 at 7:44 am

Teaching has to be so rewarding – but definitely a lot of work – your classroom looks great!

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kaila @ healthy helper! August 16, 2011 at 7:49 am

Haha fun post Chelsey! Its interesting to see what teachers do before we all go back to school! Thanks for the inside look :)

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Kelsey @ My Search of Summer August 16, 2011 at 7:50 am

When I was younger I always wanted to be a teacher – I think most of it had to do with decorating the boards every year haha. Yours look great! It’s weird to think this year is the first year since I was like three years old I won’t be going back to school!

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Khushboo August 16, 2011 at 7:50 am

Wow your students are so lucky to have such an organised teacher! Good luck for the new year!

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Lori Lynn August 16, 2011 at 7:51 am

Decorating was never my forte’, and that’s probably why I’m a special ed teacher. We usually don’t have to do bulletin boards or art activities!

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Victoria @ The Pursuit of Hippieness August 16, 2011 at 7:57 am

Oh my, this is making me so nostalgic for the days of back to school shopping at GapKids, Limited Too, my lime green LL Bean backpack with my initials, and new notebooks and pencil cases!

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. August 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

I ran into one of my profs having coffee at one of the cafes I visit and it totally threw me for a loop. Teachers aren’t supposed to show up in the real world! ;) Have fun with your kids today! It looks like you did an awesome job of prepping for the new year :)

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Katelyn@ Foodie Goes to School August 16, 2011 at 8:19 am

I LOVE THIS! I am doing my internship this year in a fourth grade classroom. SO EXCITED! I am going to help my teacher set up in a couple of weeks and I cannot wait. Thank you thank you thank you for this post :)

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Corey @ Learning Patience August 16, 2011 at 8:22 am

Good luck! I don’t have much patience, like you spoke about yesterday, I don’t know how you teach? Good for you girl! Glad to have found your blog – you seriously crack me up! :-) xoxo from Trinidad

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Lindsay@ In Sweetness and In Health August 16, 2011 at 8:24 am

So fun! I bet you are an awesome teacher! Your stuff looks so cute and makes me reminiscent of my elementary school days :) . I remember seeing some of my teachers at the grocery store and stuff and it always weirded me out haha.

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christina August 16, 2011 at 8:34 am

so organized! i love the color scheme too. i hope you have a wonderful school year! :)

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Molly August 16, 2011 at 9:01 am

Chelsey! I have been MIA in the blog world for a couple of months and am loving the new changes to your blog. Iwill be going into student teaching this fall and this post made my day! I am actually sitting in one of my closest friends new classroom and we are trying to figure out where to begin in making it a fun 1st grade classroom. Lots of new and exciting things going on–and I’m sure glad we can share in this chaotic teaching life together!

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cleaneatingchelsey August 16, 2011 at 10:01 am

Welcome back to the blogworld!! :)

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Sara August 16, 2011 at 9:06 am

Yes! Teachers work hard! I also teach, but high school math. I only wish we could get our class lists earlier… we get them the day before school starts! Your classroom looks so cute; have a great year!

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Kelly August 16, 2011 at 9:18 am

Such great information! I am currently working on my teaching certification and I love getting little insights and tidbits from already successful and established teachers!

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Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg August 16, 2011 at 9:18 am

Wowza– so much work!! Ha, I remember thinking that teachers lived at the school when I was little too :-)

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Abby @ Abz 'n' Oats August 16, 2011 at 9:19 am

That is so cool that you send post cards out to the kids! Definitely a sweet gesture! :)

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cleaneatingchelsey August 16, 2011 at 10:01 am

They absolutely love it. While my hand hurts at the end of it, it’s so worth it!

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Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} August 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

Ah, this totally brings me back to my teaching days. (I stopped teaching to be a stay-at-home mom) I taught 1st, 3rd, and 5th, and 5th was my faaaavorite. Loved teaching 5th. Have a great open house!

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cleaneatingchelsey August 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

:) I love 5th tooo!!!

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Laura @ Meet Virginia August 16, 2011 at 9:33 am

My mom teaches 1st grade so I know all about the hard work that goes into each and every day. She spends lots of her summer in her classroom getting everything ready for the next year. Props to you for doing this incredibly important job. Your classroom is really cute! :)

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Erica @ For the Sake of Cake August 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

Yay, love this post! I teach high school, but there are lots of similarities in the preparation that goes into everything. I’m actually going supply shopping today & in to school to start setting up tomorrow. (Your school year must start a little earlier than it does here in PA?) Have fun at the open house!

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cleaneatingchelsey August 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

Yes, we start VERY early this year!!!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun August 16, 2011 at 9:45 am

All that extra work is SO time consuming! People who think teachers have it easy are ridiculous. Teachers work so hard. I know how busy you are right now!!!

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Krystina (Organically Me) August 16, 2011 at 9:48 am

Everyone always told me that I’d make an excellent teacher. I think they’re nuts. :P But you seem to really enjoy your job, and your room is super cute. :)

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cleaneatingchelsey August 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

I do enjoy my job! It’s the best!

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Rebecca August 16, 2011 at 10:08 am

I thought teachers had it easy growing up too, then I got into my practicum and student teaching-WRONG. It is a lot of work, but I love every second of it and your tips are spot on. It’s supposed to get easier year to year, whew, but I think that’s just the lesson plan aspect.

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Aine @ Something to Chew Over August 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

My mother is a teacher so I knew they had lives! And that the job wasn’t as easy as it seemed ;)

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Erin @ The Grass Skirt August 16, 2011 at 10:29 am

I am seriously so impressed by you. I hope that one day my future kids are lucky enough to have a teacher like you!

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Maria @ Beautiful Busy Bee August 16, 2011 at 10:36 am

Wow! I’ve actually never known exactly what elementary school teachers do, although several of my aunts teach elementary. If I was gonna be a teacher, I would teach 4th grade.

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katie August 16, 2011 at 10:54 am

I pictured your classroom being very neat ; )

Have a great day! I bet you are excited to meet the new students! How fun to be a teacher!!

xoxo <3

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Kendall (On An Inhale) August 16, 2011 at 11:29 am

There are so many years where I needed a post card going back to school.

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Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin August 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

Wow, you put so much work into your classroom! If there were an award for prettiest classroom at your school, I think you would win it! ;)

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Chrissy August 16, 2011 at 11:41 am

WOW – I’m a VP at a middle school, would you like to come work with us? You are so organized and I can tell from that one post – teaching must be one of your passions! I loved seeing “Heidi” on your bookshelf. I procrastinate going back…once I am there it’s full force! We don’t go back until August 29 and kids come Sept. 6.

Have a wonderful school year!

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cleaneatingchelsey August 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm

haha! You’re too kind! I’m sure my principal would miss me too much. ;)

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e@thisnotedlife August 16, 2011 at 11:55 am

This makes ME want to go back to school!

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles August 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

Your classroom is so cute!! I bet the kids love getting postcards from you. I was always so, so excited to go back to school! Probably why I’m still here at 23, and going strong with a solid 5 years left. It gets less fun after grade school…

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Jackie @ That Deep Breath August 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Seeing your posts about teaching makes me even more excited to become a teacher! I have always wanted to teach Kindergarten…I’m crazy like that!

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cleaneatingchelsey August 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

haha – I couldn’t do Kindergarten! I love my 5th graders! :)

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Alyssa @ Life of bLyss August 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm

you are such a champ. my sister is a fifth grade teacher, and I love visiting her class and helping out… what a cool age! good luck meeting your new kiddos! :)

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Julie H. of Spinach and Sprinkles August 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

CRUD!!!! ….I need to go update my files so they don’t say 2nd anymore, thanks for the reminder! …..Gabbing with the other teachers and staff takes up SOOOOO much time, especially when we know that we should be working in our rooms! oops ;) …My teachers edition books arrived TODAY! I can finally have something to teach out of!
Good Luck getting back into the swing of things! Hope you have a room full of gems! :)

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Lisa@HealthyDiaries August 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

How exciting! You sound like such a great teacher and a very organized one! I’d love to have one of my kids in your class one day! :)

I have to say, I don’t miss living on a “school year.” I actually leave for vacation Friday, so I’m so looking forward to that!

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Lindsay @ Lindsay's List August 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Teachers are some of the most selfless people I know! You make NO money and receive little praise. You spend all day corraling other people’s children. I applaud anyone who’ll do that, Chelsey!!

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Katie @ Peace Love and Oats August 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I also had no idea how much effort teachers had to put into the new year until my best friend from college got her first middle grades english and math teaching job this year! Today’s her first day of class and I’m wishing her luck, she’s totally freaked out!

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Michelle (The Runner's Plate) August 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I wish I loved teaching as much as you do! Today is our first day of school!

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Alexa @ Simple Eats August 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I love that you posted this because I think it’s such a common misconception that teachers are completely free during the summer. You guys are always planning, updating and working! Thanks for sharing this :) And what a cute class room!

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janetha @ meals & moves August 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm

oh my gosh. this post just brought back my longing to be a teacher!!! you’re amazing.

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Kathryn August 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I love the postcard idea! I’m a teacher and I may use that for my preschoolers. Kids love getting mail:)

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Wendy August 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm

That “help wanted” bb is SO cute! May I steal/borrow for my second grade classroom? I love the idea of using newsprint for the background! Have a great school year.

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[New Balance] Nicole August 16, 2011 at 6:57 pm

loved this post! Hope to hear more about your school year!

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Meg August 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Ha. That’s pretty cool how you send postcards to your kids before the school year starts. I swear I could be a lifetime student because I love the beginning of the school year! Though I don’t really have an excuse to buy crayons/markers for myself, I teach the 3-year olds for an hour on sundays and luckily they love crayons! (and I get to color some of the lessons with markers, woo-hoo!)

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Valerie August 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm

First time commenter here! I love your blog :) I just started teaching this year in Atlanta! I just graduated college in May from Penn State and am doing Teach For America. Let me tell you, I had NO idea how much work goes on behind the scenes. Lesson plans…that’s nothing compared to all the other STUFF!!! So much documentation. I am trying to be organized but everything is just so overwhelming!! You’re room looks awesome though. It took me FOREVER to set mine up and I still feel like I’m not done and school started last week haha. Oh well, I LOVE my first graders and hopefully I can make them smart cookies by the end of the year!

OH! bad part about teaching – not being able to a. eat when you want, b. GO TO THE BATHROOM when you want!!!!

Question-I remember during the school year I read that you got up before work to run. Do you go outside when it’s still dark or do you go to the gym? I’ve been getting up to run around 5 am but I’m scared running outside!!

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Missy August 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Awesome classroom…but where is your bed? Heehee I kid.
I love this, and hope you can share more about what you are teaching the kids.

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Christine @ BookishlyB August 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Oh yes, teachers are talkers. A good thing…. and sometimes a very bad thing.

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Sarah August 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Your classroom looks great! I also thought my teachers lived at the school and had no other “life”. I was so confused in 4th grade when my teacher’s daughter came into the classroom to ask her something. I thought the only kids she had were US! What was this??? Teachers work so hard and should definatly be paid more…they totally deserve it! I hope your kids appreciate you!

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Pure2raw Twins August 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm

love seeing what teachers do to get ready for the year :) you are so organized!!! I need to have you come over and organize my place LOL

Hard to believe it is the school year time so soon. Why does the summers go by so fast?

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Stacy August 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Chelsey you seems so excited about going back to school- which makes me excited for you!

I think it’s really sweet that you send each of your students post cards welcoming them to your class.

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Lexi @ A Spoonful of Sunshine August 17, 2011 at 2:13 am

Haha it took me until high school that I realized teachers were awesome people–not just robots that live at school ;)

(Though I still swear there are a few creepy teachers that are evil robots who never leave…)

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Colleen @ The Lunchbox Diaries August 17, 2011 at 6:06 am

I”VE MISSED YOU!! You’re classroom looks adorable!

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Christina @ This Woman Cooks! August 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

You are so organized Chelsey, that’s great! That must definitely make life easier throughout the school year. I love your bulletin boards! I miss having my own classroom, it was so much fun getting it ready. I hope you have a great year and have awesome, well-behaved students. :)

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Christy @ So I Follow the Sun August 18, 2011 at 11:04 am

I’m pretty sure one of the reason I became a teacher is so I wouldn’t have to give up back-to-school shopping. It wouldn’t be August without new notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, and, of course, clothes.

I can’t wait until I actually get a job and get to decorate my own classroom. I always decorated my mom’s classroom and loved it.

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Koko@KokoLikes August 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I LOVE this post! I always loved the boards around my classrooms. I love you creative you are!

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Sharee June 30, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I work at school with a convent attached. Half of the staff DOES live at the school.
I am ITCHING to get back into that building.

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