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Prepping for Next Week: Freezer Cooking

Freezer Cooking

I try to do at least one thing during the weekend to make my life for the next week.  This weekend it’s freezer cooking.  If you’ve not heard of this concept before, it’s where you do cooking and/or prep work for several meals at once and toss them in the freezer.  Sine you do all the prep for several meal sin one day,  it ultimately reduces the time you spend in the kitchen.

Freezer cooking kind of sucks on the day you are doing the prep work, but I usually forget what a pain it was when I’m not spending half and hour in the kitchen right after I get home from a long day.  When I keep up on this, I’m far less likely to resort to takeout. During particularly busy times, I sometimes even buy pre-cut veggies or those “recipe beginnings” frozen veg things in the freezer section.  Don’t feel like you have to do it all.   I always buy pre bagged salads.  It’s a standard side in our household.

This upcoming week is a holiday week, so I will not be making as many meals as I might have on an otherwise normal week. However, it’s even more important that I prep for next week because our routine is disrupted.  We don’t have school on Monday, and we will be visiting family, so preparing for a stress free week is going to be even more important.

Here’s a peek into our (pretty small, since we are going to be with family part of the time) menu:

Meal 1:  BBQ Chicken, cornbread, salad

Meal 2: Beef Stroganoff served over mashed cauliflower, side salad

  • This is another Instant Pot meal that I got out of the Instant Pot cookbook.  Like the chicken, I will get everything cut up and in a gallon ziplock bag, then dump it in my Instant Pot on the cooking day.

Meal 3: Pulled pork quesadillas, black beans, salad

  • This is using a previous “make ahead” meal- we have leftover pulled pork in our freezer.  This quick and easy meal uses leftovers and does not take a lot of mental bandwidth to cook.

Lunch this week is tuna cheddar chowder. (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!)  I often make a big batch of soup and freeze it in individual portions for lunches.  I put the portions in labeled ziplock bags and freeze them flat on a cookie sheet.  Once they are frozen, I put them away upright. I have a container like this one in my freezer for my freezer meals.

Freezer meals do not have to be complicated to be delicious.  Do yourself a favor and prep some flavorful meals to look forward to.  Take some stress off of future you!

Do you freezer cook?  What’s your favorite dish?  Share in the comments! 

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3 Tips on Dealing with All the Paper

Paper Overload

It’s the start of the semester, which means that I am buried in paper.  I hate paper for paper’s sake so much.  I find that it usually just gets crammed somewhere, taking up space and not being useful.  At the start of the year, I can’t turn the corner without someone shoving another sheet of dates/teaching strategies/new rules/old rule reminders at me.  I used to just cram it in my bag, and then keep it somewhere “just in case,” but I’ve really started to reevaluate that strategy.  What can we do with all that paper?

  1. Really evaluate what you need.  Ask yourself- is this something I already know?  Is this information somewhere else, like the school website on the LMS?  Is this something I am really going to try in my classroom?  Is this something I am required to keep?
  2. Can you scan it and store it in the cloud?  (Or a jump drive?) One of the best things I ever did was to figure out how to do large batch scanning on the copy machines.  I now scan and shred pretty much every document that I have to keep for whatever reason, but don’t need a specific hard copy of. Make sure to label it well so you know what it is and/or can run a search and find it quickly if you need it.
  3. File it, and label those files well.  If you really do have to hold on to a physical copy, then file it. Go through them frequently.  It’s true that we sometimes have to keep some hard copies of things for a certain amount of time.  Fine.  File them away in a well labeled folder, AND put a “shredder x file” into your calendar on the future date when you no longer need to hold on to something.  If you’re required to keep something for say, three years, make sure you actually get rid of it three years from now.  Don’t be the person who changes schools and has to drive 7 carloads of paper to the shredding place.

Free yourself from paper overload!

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Automate Your Announcements: The Video!

My teacher workdays/meetings started this week, so real life has returned.  It’s nice to be back.

I did make time to make a short video about automating announcements.  In it, I talk about some of the things I do, and show you what it looks like on my end of the LMS.  Click the video to view!

Automating announcements video

If you have a second, let me know in the comments that you automate, and what you WISH you could automate! 

 

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Quick Trick: Automate Your Announcements

Automate_Tips

I love being present for my students.  I want them to feel like I care, because I do! One of the easiest ways to be present is to frequently check in with your students, using your LMS.  This is imperative if you teach online, but it is even useful for your face to face classes.

I know I’ve had semesters where I’ve had grand ideas about checking in every Monday, or sending reminders about days that we are closed, or sending an encouragement video.  Then I’d get crazy busy, and those great ideas would be pushed aside to make time for grading or other details.

Enter automation.  Does your LMS have any automation features?  My school uses Canvas, which has a few.  One of my favorite ones is automating my announcements.  Before school even starts, I have written out an entire semester’s worth of announcements set to go off so that I am communicating with my students consistently.  I say hello, I remind them of due dates, tell them about resources that my school has that they may not know about,  and remind them that school is closed for (holiday). I remind my blended students that we are meeting in class on x date, etc.  I also like to post encouraging videos during the key burn out points of the semester.   The best part is that this is all finished before I step into my classroom. It’s a set it and forget it set up, and I love it.

I require that my students set up their settings so that my announcements and e-mails go to either their phone or an e-mail address that they actually check. (On Canvas and have no idea how to do that? Here’s a guide!)

This does not mean that I never contact my students during the year. I absolutely do!  Having the announcements auto-post just makes sure that I am always consistent. It helps future me be the best teacher I can be.

 

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3 Quick Tips for Fall Semester (There’s still time!)

3 Tipsfor Fall Semester

I know, it’s August and you are staring at a pile of work.  If you took the summer off, there’s a lot of loose ends to tie up. If you taught or worked a second job this summer, you might not feel like you had a break!  That does not mean that your Fall classes have to give you whiplash.

Here’s a few tips to help make the start of semester a bit better for you:

1. Go spend an afternoon cleaning and editing your office.

  • Did you leave it clean and ready for fall when you left it? Fantastic!  I still encourage you go in, wipe it down, and make sure that everything you left behind is stuff that you still want and need.
  • Do you still have student papers in your filing cabinet from 1998?  Time to shred those babies.
  • Do you have books that a publisher sent you that you don’t think you’ll be using?  Get them off your bookcase.
  • Do you need to restock on post it notes, or get rid of those pens you hate but still have in your overfilled pen cup?  Take care of it. Walk in to your office the first day of classes to a relaxing space that is ready to go!

Bonus: Don’t have an office?  I feel your pain. I was an adjunct for years, often across several schools.  If you have not already, set up an office in a box.  That can look like a lot of things.

For me, it looked like a cloth laundry hamper bin in my car.  Mine came from Thirty-One Gifts, but now I see them for sale everywhere.

It was easy to pull out and stash if I needed to. I also used color coded accordion files for each school, and color coded file folders for each class. It all lived in my office in a box. Nothing school related goes outside this bin, so I never lost anything that I needed for class.  If you don’t have a dedicated office system, get one.  If you do have one, clean it out! So many pens somehow ended up at the bottom of my office in a box, and if I did not clean it out periodically, it got heavy.

2. Think ahead about the copies you need.

  • If your institution is anything like mine, the copy center gets super busy at the start of semester.  Syllabi, assignment sheets, etc- there was a time where I did not think about them until the day I returned to my office.  Don’t do that.  Finish your syllabi and think about your first two weeks of needed copies.  Go make them.  (Or, if you have an awesome school, send in the copy request!) Don’t wait.  Nothing is more stressful than fighting the copy center line thirty minutes before class starts.

3. What annoyed you most about your day to day last year? Spend a few minutes coming up with a process.

  • What thing did you find yourself doing over and over?  What student question or issue came up a lot?  Now’s the time to either revamp your process for dealing with that issue, or coming up with a process *to* deal with it. Maybe it’s writing a few canned responses to have ready. (Example: Yes, you do need the book. Here’s a link to the bookstore…etc). Maybe it’s moving your office around so you don’t feel so trapped with a scary student parks himself in your student chair.  Maybe it’s setting up a calendar that you can see so you don’t over commit this year.  Whatever your “It” is, decide how you’re going to deal with it now, and set up mechanisms to deal with that make it easier.  Future you will thank past you!

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