Search This Blog

Monday, July 23, 2018

Scheduling Nightmare



Let's have an honest conversation about building schedules.

Did just reading that give you that feeling in your stomach? That pit of anxiety and stress welling up inside of you. Yes. That word can cause that effect for many people. Me, definitely being one of them.

When I started this job a year ago, I inherited a building schedule. I found the format it was created in impossible to read/follow. I'm such a visual person and *this* made my skin itch.

Yep. That is just the *start* of the multiple tabs showing the schedule in different ways. There was not just a one-page view to see it all at a glance. I had to flip between multiple tabs to try to figure out when people needed to be where. My *visual* brain was in overload, and I simply had a hard time looking at it, nonetheless, using it.

At the time, I was told to run with it, take notes, and plan to make changes for the following year. In hindsight, it was the best advice possible, as it allowed me to see things in action. I could not have *fixed* it or improved upon it last summer, when I hadn't seen a full year in the school. And, in truth, it is not that the schedule, itself, was awful at all. There were many parts of it that worked really well for staff. Reading it was just a beast.

So, towards the end of this year, I went on a mission to tackle this puzzle.

If any of you have ever taken on a building schedule, you can empathize with what a nightmare it actually is. We have 600 kids. I have 100 staff members. I have traveling teachers. I have a special that only falls once, every other week. I have grades 4-6 that have a different amount of specials than K-3 does. I also have multi-age teachers that teach 3/4! It was the worst kind of jigsaw puzzle.

So, I began with collecting feedback from my staff. I sent out a "hopes and dreams" Google Form, asking for their input.
That led to pages and pages of a spreadsheet responses to sift through. Many admitted that they did not have perfect solutions, but many of their requests/needs were understandable. The hard part is that not all could be perfectly honored. 

My main priorities were:

  • 3 clean lunch/recess hours (this would be down from 5 different start times last year)
  • Common planning time for single age teachers--EVERYDAY
  • Common planning time for our multi-age partners to meet with their teaching partner DAILY, and with their age-group counter parts, multiple times per week
  • Art at the end of the day for all 5th & 6th grade teachers due to an amazing partnership happening next year with a local art university
  • Adding in an extra "guided study" (Intervention block" for our multi-age 1/2 students due to number of students in need

I needed to set the lunch hours first. The rest of the day would be built around that. 
Then, I moved on to a blank, visual slate.

I made a weekly template with my traveling teachers time blocked off. I also took into consideration our early release schedule on Wednesdays, as well as our "crew" time in our building (morning meetings, culture building time). I then printed this on legal-sized paper, so it was nice and big to scribble all over. Keeping my teacher's input and my priorities in mind, I started penciling things in.
I honestly think I went through about 15-20 different iterations of this hot mess. I'd get so far, then realize a mistake that threw everything off, and I'd have to erase a ton or simply start with a fresh sheet. But, being a visual person, it worked well for me. That being said, I quickly needed to upgrade my eraser ;)
I also made a page that showed exactly how many of each special each teacher needed each week. I checked them off, as I scheduled them. This allowed me to double check my work along the way, making sure I had enough for everyone.

I picked the project up and put it down countless times. It was a labor of....well...SOMETHING! ;) Certainly *NOT* a labor of love! Your brain can only handle so much, and then you felt like you were going to pitch the entire thing out the front window. But, eventually, I felt like I had a working iteration. At that point, I began filling in color-coded cells. A color for each grade level or teaching partnership set. 

Once I triple checked my work, I then created individual spreadsheets for each grade level. This allowed me to plug their "non-moveable items" into a week at a glance. This was critical for me, as it let me ensure that they all had large enough blocks of time to teach in. I remember being in the classroom and having weird 15 minute windows here or there, which broke up your day in odd ways. You couldn't really do much with those windows of time, and it impacted many things. I wanted to reduce that as much as possible for the teachers. 

I found many things to *tweak* by laying it out this way. I, then, fine-tuned the final schedule even more. The other benefit of this layout, is now my teachers can simply "plug in" what they are doing the rest of the blocks. I set permissions on each grade level tab so only they (and I) can edit their sheet. It then gives the entire building everyone's weekly schedules at a glance!

The final step, of course, was to share it with the staff. So far, only one minor error that was quickly resolved. Here's to hoping that it is an improvement for next year!

How do you do the building schedule? Have you tried those fancy online subscriptions, or do you complete it "old school" like me? Would love to learn from you!

Yours in Scheduling,

Angela



Mid-Year Reflection


It's February already? Seriously, when did that happen? If my blogging pattern is telling in any way, well, I've decided there is a reason for that! (and....now it is March when this is actually getting published...good grief!)

First and foremost, let's celebrate that we have survived half of the school year! My goodness, July seems like forever ago! Yet, here we are, over halfway done, racing towards the end of the year. I'd love to pause and use this time to reflect on the first half. The highs. The lows. The changes. The hopes. The "what's next" feelings of anxiety. This first year certainly has been a whirlwind so far, to say the least. But, honestly, I couldn't be happier. I still love my job!

I tried to put my emotions of the year so far into emoji form. I only completed the months so far, anticipating that in June, I'll finish the rest! Here is what I came up with:

Let's back up and take it month by month:


Holy Lord!! I'm starting this job. It is really happening. Now what? Honestly, I felt completely clueless in July. My school was virtually empty. I had no background knowledge to build upon. It was lonely. It was scary. Things that I am so glad I did:
  • Made my office mine: It was a sort of "nesting" experience for me. It was a pretty sterile environment upon entering, so making it feel more like "home" felt great. I'm glad I did this in June/July, because I never would have had time, if I had waited.
  • Met with every staff member: This time was so well worth every minute spent! I loved getting to know my new staff. I learned so much about my new school and about them--as people and as educators. 
  • Planning: I felt like I was truly planning for the unknown. I guess, in hindsight, I was. I really was looking ahead to August and September, but couldn't see much beyond that yet.
  • Establishing relationships with colleagues: I got to work closely and get to know my new administrative team. They were so kind and generous in answering my questions and making me feel welcome and supported.
  • Downloaded some awesome checklists for the year. Being a member of AWSA was so helpful this year! Principal Principles also has some awesome ones HERE
  • Bought a subscription to SMORE! It is a lifesaver for newsletters!!! I highly recommend. Worth every penny of the $79 a year!! I blogged about it HERE

Let the meetings begin! Wow, there sure were a lot of them in August! SO much to get ready for. It felt like July moved at such a snail's pace, and August felt like a whirlwind race to the finish line of the first day of school.  Between "Forms and Fees" and the ramp up to back to school, it was crazy. Crazier still was that even though I've been in education for almost 17 years, this felt like my very first FIRST day of school! I had never experienced "beginning of the year prep" in this way before. Things I am so glad that I did:
  • Team-building activities with my new staff
  • Took the "Managing to Lead PD" with my secretary...the BEST PD ever to help me start to organize my year, as well as establish my relationship with my admin assistant!!
  • Showed them my appreciation for the work they were doing to prepare
  • Stayed out of the way as much as I could
  • Asked a TON of questions (what traditions do I need to know about, are there special things to do or plan for, etc.)
  • Listen more than talk. Everyone had things they wanted to share with me. It was time to LEARN as much as I could!

Talk about starting the year on a HIGH! It was so full of energy and excitement. Everyone was in a good mood and most importantly, on their BEST behaviors! I remember thinking "Wow, this is great! I can *definitely* make it through this year, if it continues like this..." Little did I know.... ;)
Things I am so glad that I did:
  • Visited every classroom--EVERY week for this first month! I left positive notes for teachers every time I was there. I blogged about it HERE. They were not used to a principal being in their space...EVER, so I wanted to make it as positive of an experience as possible for them.
  • Spent time at every lunch hour and recess to establish tone and learn "hot spots" and kids
  • Met with every classroom/grade level and had them help me write the playground/lunch room rules. I then turned them into big posters for EVERYWHERE. Teachers got a copy. Playground supervisors got one. Parents got them, too!
  • Started and ended each day at the front of the school--greeting and saying goodbye to kids/families really helped develop relationships and rapport
  • Made specific effort to find and start to get to know the "naughty list" kids that I had *heard* about. I wanted to start to build a relationship with them and catch them doing good. It was a great proactive move for the rest of the year.
  • Continued to listen and learn as much as I could

October was busy. With parent teacher conferences and school board/district expectations ramping up, I started to realize the evening commitment aspect of this work. I felt like I was away from home...A LOT. This took some home adjustment. My amazing hubby and I had to find some balance and collaboration to figure out child care, etc. There were some growing pains this month around that. Behaviors with kids also started to ramp up. Remember my "naughty list" kids from last month...yep...the honeymoon was over for some of them. I am so glad that I started to build relationships with them early. It made those first discipline encounters that much better.
Things I am so glad that I did:
  • Had open, honest conversations with my hubby about time commitments. We got MUCH better about our shared calendar and trying to plan ahead. It was critical to the success.
  • Attended as many school events as possible. Being present and visible also helped establish and develop relationships with kids and families.
  • Continued to try to catch the "naughty list" of kids doing good
  • Dug deeper into my understanding of restorative practices
  • Continued to spend time in classrooms and leave positive notes for teachers
  • Read through every SLO and gave specific feedback
  • Began my "Full" observations of my summative year teachers (I had 26 on summative this year!! aka Baptism By Fire)

Yep...this job is hard. The honeymoon period is long gone, and you are now moving 100 miles per hour--Every. Day. Observations consume your time, and you feel like you have less and less "fun" visits to classrooms. The countdown to the holidays is also beginning...wait?? I need to shop! Not just for my family, but for the staff, too! 
Things I am so glad that I did:
  • Continue to schedule time for FUN visits to classrooms. I had my secretary block off times on my calendar to just BE with kids. I needed that positivity in my work life!
  • Started to plan out what I was going to give my staff as an easy, inexpensive holiday gift. With a staff of 100, I needed to plan ahead. I ended up making my own version of THESE. I bought cases of flavored hot cocoa from Sam's. Candy canes and marshmallows!
  • I wrote each of my staff members a personal thank you note for the week of Thanksgiving, telling them why I was thankful for them. I made them specific and meaningful. It was so well-received by everyone. Sometimes a simple, heartfelt note goes so much further than any other gift. Start EARLY! If your building is like my building...writing 100 notes is hard on the hand!!
  • Muscled through more full observations

I remember when I was a teacher how ridiculous December was. Well, being a principal is a magnified version of that. It felt like simply survival mode. So much of my time was consumed by behaviors--and not just kid behaviors. Adult ones, too!! <sigh> Kids struggle with transition and change. Building up to a week+ of school off was exciting for some and dreadful for others. Being as present as possible was mandatory.
Things I am so glad that I did:
  • Was as proactive as possible. I spent a ton of time...again...in the lunch room and on playground.
  • Made clear, visible snow rules posters (no, throwing snowballs STILL isn't allowed with a new principal ;)
  • Date night. I needed to start scheduling these with my hubby. I needed to *try* to find a little balance with work/home.
  • Wrote personal thank you notes for every gift I received from staff, kids, and families.
  • So much of this month was a blur....

Holy cow!! Half of the year is over! But that still means that we had 1/2 to go! We all came back rejuvenated and refreshed from winter break. There were some growing pains there, too, especially with behaviors transitioning back.
Things I am so glad that I did:
  • Continued to be at every evening function that I could
  • Wrapped up my full observations of summative year staff members by the end of January
  • Got into classrooms as much as I could--just for fun kid time. K4 and K5 were particularly fun hot spots
  • Took pictures of kids simply playing in the snow. I needed to remind myself from time to time about the joy of kids being kids. It helped ground me in why we do this work
  • Did a mid-year review with my leadership team to look at our building plan and data, and made plans/adjusted goals for the remainder of the year

Again, just like in teaching, February is a draining month. The moral is low. People are tired. there are TONS of weeks until Spring Break (at least it feels that way). Tempers are a little high...with adults and with kids.
  • Made an ice cream bar for staff for Valentine's Day
  • Continued the tradition of "Fun Fridays" for kids/staff. Something fun every Friday in February (PJ day, Twin Day, game day, etc.)
  • Dug into completing mini-observations for everyone. So. Many. Staff members.
  • Attended a wonderful leadership conference in Chicago with other EL Education leaders. It was awesome to connect and get excited about future directions
  • Began thinking about staffing changes. Retirements were announced. We also had to reduce a section in Kindergarten, so navigating those seas of change were tough
  • Leaned heavily on my professional support network. They were so great with guidance and advice.
So...cheers to the end of the year! It will come fast and furious, no doubt.

Yours in Reflecting,

Angela

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Power of Appreciation


It's been a while...beginning of the year has gotten the best of me, and I've neglected my blogging.

We have now survived over a full month here at my amazing school. To be perfectly honest, it has gone so much smoother than I could have ever anticipated. I feel so "at home" here. I get at least 100 hugs a day from littles, and high fives from bigs. I'm loving greeting everyone in the morning before school, and sending them off afterwards.

It has been truly fantastic. But my favorite part (obviously, the kids are right up there...) is MY STAFF! They are so incredibly talented, professional, and eager to learn/try new things! I feel so incredibly lucky.

On a recommendation from my former superintendent, I recently finished the book "O Great One" by David Novak. And what a truly powerful message it sends about the power of recognition and appreciation.
Click Image for Amazon Link
It is told in a narrative form from the perspective of a man trying to turn around a failing company. It was a super fast and fun read. The main character really hones in on uplifting people's spirits and recognizing the efforts they are making. One of the quotes that really resonated with me was "If they don't enjoy working here, if they don't feel appreciated, then how can we expect them to pass those things on to the customers?"

What a perfect connection to education. If staff do not feel appreciated, if they do not feel supported, how can we expect them to make those same connections with kids? It reminded me of that fantastic Rita Pierson Ted Talk "Every Kid Needs a Champion." (see below). In this video, I love the quote, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like." Such truth. But that goes for staff, as well.

Building relationships is incredibly important to me. Relationships with kids, with families, but most importantly, with my staff. I need to truly know them, their histories, their styles, their strengths, if I am going to help them in their own personal growth.

One of the ways I chose to start that in this new position was meeting 1-on-1 all summer long with anyone that wanted to meet with me. I had classroom teachers, special education assistants, custodians, and more! This gave me the chance to learn more about these amazing people in a more relaxed setting, outside of the stress of the school year. It was some of the best time I spent. I learned so much about them personally, but also about this amazing building that I was taking over.

As the year drew closer to beginning, building off of the great book I read, I wanted to give the staff members small tokens of appreciation to begin our year. The start of a year can be so stressful, I wanted to let them know how much I appreciated the long hours and hard work that they were putting in. This was the first thing I came up with:

TEACHER SURVIVAL KIT
I came in on a Sunday and delivered alphabet clipboards and goodie bags to each of their desks, or table, or teacher chair. The clipboards I got in bulk from Positive Promotions. They had a great sale, and I got them for about $1.25 a piece.
Link to Product
Each goodie bag had the following items:
Most of the items I had or was able to find at places like Target or Walmart. I ended up ordering these small compasses from Amazon.

The response was overwhelming. They were so appreciative of such a small gesture on my part. It was like no one had ever thanked them before, or at least, no one had thanked them in a long time. Another quote from O Great One that connected to this moment was "The problem with common sense, is it's not all that common." How could this amazing staff go unappreciated for so long? How could sending a simple "thank you" e-mail come off as "unheard of" prior to me arriving? It made my heart sad to know that they didn't hear this more often.

On the first day of school, I wanted to do something fun, as well! Thanks to Pinterest, I made these:
Again, something so small and so simple, really was received well by my staff. I was happy to bring a smile to their faces on a stressful day.

Now, that we are a month into school, I wanted to bring in a new "appreciation" idea. I know the staff has been feeling stressed and tired from getting their rooms up and running. The "honeymoon" had worn off for some (for me, too), and we needed a little rejuvenation. Thanks to the amazing Facebook Principal Group I belong to, I took a great idea and made it my own.

FILL THE BUCKET CHALLENGE
I found these great little buckets at Target in their front discount area (damn that place...gets me every time ;). I filled them up with a candle, some stickers, some fun sticky notes, some candy, a pen, and a piece of fruit. I made 5 of these buckets...one for each of my new staff members. It felt appropriate to start there. It is so tough to transition to a new school (what??! What's that like? ;). For some, it is their very first year. In each bucket was also a small card and a note:
I hope that they can pass on this little token of appreciation and fill someone else's bucket!

I know these aren't much. We're principals...we're not made of money! :) But, I truly want my staff to know how much I appreciate them. I am so incredibly blessed to get to do this work. However, I can only do this work, because of them!

How do you show appreciation to your staff? I'd love to learn from you!

Yours in "APPRECIATIONS",

~Angela



Saturday, September 2, 2017

An AMAZING Race

Not going to lie...surviving my first week back with my staff as a brand new principal has been exhausting. When people I follow talk about "principal tired", they certainly weren't kidding! It's a thing. Go ahead...Google it! :)

I feel like the week before and this week were "crunch time" for us, as leaders, and then that stress switches to the staff. Either way, we all have a million things on our plates, and we were feeling the pressure.

Part of any "traditional" back to school teacher week involves some sort of "Nuts and Bolts" back to school meeting. Coming so recently from the classroom, I remember how much I despised "sit and get" types of meetings. With this in mind, I was determined to make this meeting fun and engaging for my new staff.

Enter...THE AMAZING RACE! Kate and I did something similar when we were in the classroom for another similarly boring unit (Regions of the United States...click to go to our classroom blog about it). So, I took that concept and tweaked it to meet a staff meeting need!

What to Cover
I needed to cover a number of less-than-exciting topics. Can you relate?:

  • How to enter an absence
  • How to use the in-house Google Calendar
  • How to enter a discipline referral
  • Updates on playground supervision (some changes were made)
  • A new coordinator in our district wanted some time with the staff
  • One of my amazing secretaries wanted some time with the staff to cover
    • Field trip forms
    • Tardies
    • Copy Toner
    • Purchase Orders, etc.
  • How to schedule maintenance needs
  • How to schedule rooms/locations
So, I reached out to a few people and had them make some screen cast videos of a few of these topics. My secretary and I made the rest. We used QuickTime for this. We, then, uploaded the videos to YouTube and turned them into QR codes (using http://www.qr-code-generator.com/).

I then got to work making clues!

The Clues:
Based on the things I needed to share with staff, I managed to lump them into 6 different "rotations." Each rotation needed: A Road Block activity, a Detour Activity, and a clue for the next location. I also numbered the corners of each clue and clue envelope. This helped me keep track of which clues were part of which "stop."

At each destination, I also had a list of directions for each team to follow:
Challenges:
We just started a school Twitter page (and other social media accounts) with my arrival, so what better time to have staff practice using it?! They had to video/photograph/post all sorts of crazy activities. Silly things I had my staff do:
  • Crab walk down the hall
  • Wheelbarrow race
  • Hula Hoop through the cafeteria
  • Jump rope 10 times each
  • Playground selfie
  • Photos with their favorite books in the library
  • Cram into the health room bathroom and take a selfie
  • Sing a song together (I learned there is a school song! I must learn it now!)
  • Change the copy toner and photograph proof
  • Hold up a sign that read "I solemnly swear to send my master schedule to Pam by September 8" (Pam is my administrative assistant)
  • Count biographies of George Washington in the library
  • Fill out their emergency contact cards
  • Complete important events in our school's almost 100 year old timeline.
I was specific in the locations that I chose my staff to go to. I also strategically split up my staff (all new people were separated, and I also made sure that teams were split up). This allowed people to visit important places in the building, while also getting to know those they don't work with regularly on a daily basis.

The Logistics:
I'm not going to lie...this took a while to put together. Cutting apart all the clues and envelope covers took quite a bit of time, as did gluing the envelope covers on. Each envelope was labeled with team number and location. 6 teams x 6 location x 3 clues each = A LOT of envelopes! At each stop, I had piles of clues for each specific team. The first team back won "$100,000" in the form of 100 Grand candy bars. All other teams got pieces of Dove chocolate (We're ALL winners :)
One team in my office watching a video about entering discipline referrals.
A Few Highlights:
There were so many to choose from! Definitely check out our school Twitter Page to see more fun! @shorewoodLB
Blurry, but such a great, laughter-filled memory! #winners
FUN!:
Needless to say, my hallways were filled with laughter, screeching, and cheering. New friends got a tour of the building and met more staff. Other staff reconnected with teammates they don't get to work with often. I had so much fun running around my building, following the fun! And our Twitter feed is hysterical! I love that our families can see our team building efforts and smiles on our teachers' faces! One of my veteran teachers pulled me aside afterwards and said "In my 20+ years here, this was the BEST back to school meeting I've ever been to!" <sigh> I call that a success. #HeartOfficiallyWarmed

Can't wait to see what this year brings with this truly exceptional staff! Here is to 2017-2018

~Angela


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Got SMORE?


How do you communicate with staff and families? Have you heard of SMORE? If not, I highly recommend that you check it out!
Link to SMORE website
Last year, in my elementary classroom, I sent weekly newsletters to my family using Adobe Spark. This was a fantastic tool, and our families loved it! This summer, I was introduced to SMORE, and I am completely in love with it!

I plan on sending a "peek at the week" email to my staff every Sunday. My hope with this is to limit the amount of e-mails they receive from me (or HAVE to read from me ;) For my school families, I will be sending their newsletter bi-weekly (twice a month) via Infinite Campus.

So, why do I love it so much? Let me count the ways:
1.  The Versatility: You can change backgrounds, fonts, and more! (Super important to this elementary teaching alum! All you primary peeps out there totally get this obsession). You an embed videos, images, galleries, links, and more!
2. The Analytics:
This screenshot was taken about an hour after I sent my parent newsletter. I can see that 223 people had already viewed it (wow...in only 60 minutes!). Not only that, but I can see they viewed it from 38 different locations (cities, states, and even countries! One view was from France!) I can also see how much time they spent (I think the 10+ minute friends must have left the tab open on their computer :). I can even see which links they clicked on the most. During forms and fees this last week, I got SO many compliments from the families I met. They LOVED the newsletter and format. They were especially thankful for the "Intro" video I made about myself for them to get to know me better. Today, this flyer has almost 500 views. That is some serious traffic!
3. The Price: For educators, it is only $79/year! #suchadeal
4. The Ease of Use: Everything is "Click and Add" with great visuals! Their background library is great, plus you can even add your own background image, if you'd prefer! You can even duplicate flyers, which allows you to have a consistent format, just tweaking the parts you need to.
5. The Inspiration: SMORE has an amazing tool called the "Educator's Hive." This lets you see flyers that others have made. You can get inspired and even duplicate their format and tweak them to make your own!
I have been so thrilled with this amazing tool! Check out my most recent staff flyer below:


How do you communicate with staff and families? I'd love to learn with you!

Yours in Communication,

~Angela

Friday, July 28, 2017

An Office Makeover

Where to even begin? Having an office for the first time is weird enough on its own, not to mention one that is pretty bland. I want my space to be warm and inviting. I want it to be a place for great conversation and comfort. I want my office to have some life!

Probably like many of you, THIS is what I walked in to:
The desk is GIANT and was angled in the middle of the room. There is a large, blue BEAST table. Empty shelves. And who could miss the one, random, baby blue wall?? When I walked in, it certainly didn't scream "Wow! Let's hang out here!"

My first order of business was getting rid of the baby blue wall. Coincidentally, we had painters in the building painting some other rooms that had been remodeled. A can of paint later, and we now had THIS:

(Don't mind the PILES of things EVERYWHERE!) I am in love with this new color! It is "Peacock Plume" by Sherwin Williams. The opposite walls were done in a soft cream called "Apple Peel." Already the room was starting to feel different.

Next came the furniture. I don't know about you, but I have A LOT of books! I also still wanted to be surrounded by kid books. Reading with children is one of my favorite things in the entire world, and I wanted that to be apparent when people walked in to this room. The one bookshelf that was in there just wasn't going to cut it :) So, off to Target I went! I found 3 beauties! I think I also earned some bonus points from my new custodial crew, because I moved them in and put them together without their help :) My amazing secretary jumped in, and she even learned how to use a power drill!

I also wanted my "golden rule" visible for everyone. This took me to Michael's for some amazing letters and metallic spray paint.
I found out that my furniture options for the office were pretty limited. There were no other tables for in there other than the "blue beast." It definitely didn't match the new colors, so I took the top off, took it home, and got to work. I decided that I wanted to turn it into a white board table. Kate and I had done this to many tables in our classroom, and they were awesome for kiddos! I envisioned littles that might be having a rough day, hanging out with me and doodling on it. The process is fairly simple. The paint is under $20 at Home Depot, and you can usually get about 3 tables out of the can. I only had one to paint this time, so unfortunately, some of the paint was wasted.
Click to see product at Home Depot
I sanded off the blue, chipped paint, washed it/let it dry, then primed it with a white primer. You definitely need to use a foam roller. It makes the coats really smooth. Once that was dry, I did 3 coats of the rust-oleum. You need to let it "cure" for 3 days before writing on it. The results...MAGIC! I love it! I do recommend keeping a "magic eraser" on hand, as when some shadowing appears, it takes it right off!
Finally, I put it all together. Here are the end results:
I'm hoping to fill the blank space with kid art during the year!
One of my favorite books from my childhood.
My favorite chapter book!
It really does feel like "home" now. My favorite part has been seeing my staff members' faces when they have been coming in for meet and greets. Their eyes are as wide as saucers, and their words are usually something like "It feels so different in here! It is so cozy!" Yes, that is exactly what I was going for.

Have you done an office/room makeover recently? Any "must have's" or "must do's" to share? Would love to learn from you!

Yours in decorating,

~Angela