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I never thought I’d still be fighting acne on this side of age 30, but there are still a lot of factors that can mess with adult skin:

  • Hormones (ugh, still?)
  • Leaning on your hands while typing (or grading, ahem…)
  • Not washing hands often enough (...hand sanitizer doesn’t count)
  • Not washing your face before bed
  • Not making time for a skincare routine
  • Pores that enlarge as you age (bummer!)
I had no idea until recently that stress and cortisol can contribute to acne. (Maybe I’m just living under a rock.) But if that’s true, it explains SO MUCH for those of us who are teachers!

After spending WAY too many years and dollars experimenting with products, I’ve finally settled on
some favorites. (No product can ever prevent EVERY breakout, but these are the ones that have
honestly made my life better.) For reference, I have combination skin and typically use “sensitive” versions of products.

(Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of these manufacturers. Some, but not all, of these
product links are affiliate links.)

1. Oil-blotting tissues that erase shine
Even better, they’re cheap and work like champs. I’m a fan of Clean & Clear’s oil-blotting sheets, which tuck nicely into a makeup bag, teacher tote, or purse. They’re quick to use (such as during the 0.5 seconds between finishing your lunch and students re-entering your classroom). They also give you instant gratification for how much it gets off your face and how soft your skin feels. Find them at your favorite grocery store makeup aisle or grab a 6-pack (ha) for $30 on Amazon.

2. The easiest makeup remover ever
Yes, I’m too lazy to use fancy makeup removing liquid and a washcloth. (At the end of a long day, I’m too tired to take forever with a nightly routine.) Yes, I’m in love with these wipes, mainly because they don’t leave my skin with a chemical smell or dry me out. Plus, even though it’s a “gentle” face wipe, it still does the job. (I have to use a little extra elbow grease to remove heavily-applied eyeliner, but hey.) Check out Simple Facial Cleansing Wipes ($14 for a 3-pack).

3. An extremely satisfying exfoliator
The first time a Sephora lady used this on my face mid-makeover, I was SOLD. Most exfoliators seem to do nothing, but with this one, you will feel and see the dead skin come off your face (and, I promise, it is NOT too harsh).

Also, I know the price tag may look scary, but I’ve been using the same bottle for 3ish years. I use it 1-3 times a week for SPOTS of my face. Find Boscia Exfoliating Peel Gel at this link ($45).

4. A pore minimizing mask (that works)
Most masks never seem worth the money, but this one actually makes my pores smaller in one (painless) use. I used to buy the $8 pore-minimizing sheet mask, which was great, but this year I broke down and bought the bottle. (I make the bottle last by only using it in the needed spots instead of my entire face.)

5. Face wash that actually fights acne
Everyone has their own favorite brand, which is fine. For a long time, I loved and used Neutrogena’s Deep Clean cleanser, but it wasn’t enough for my face through every season of the year.

For the past few years, I’ve had better success with Proactiv+ (which I like better than the old version of Proactiv). It’s pricey, but I make it last WAY longer than just 30 days. I particularly like the exfoliator face wash (which I typically use in the shower), and the moisturizer in Step 3 is perfection that doesn’t feel heavy or oily.

6. Makeup primer that hides everything
I have very little patience for makeup, but when I DO use it, primer makes an incredible difference. (As in, I typically only use 2-3 makeup products a day, but if I’m going to use ANY concealer, foundation, or powder, I’m GOING to use primer first.)

I like this one from Sephora because it’s already a reasonably priced bottle ($15), AND you only need a TINY (less than your pinkie nail) amount for your whole face.

What other products do you use for acne or skin?
Tell me in the comments!

Consider your December lesson planning done!

Christmas is a fun time for all involved, including teachers! If you're stumped for ideas on how you can bring the Christmas spirit into your English Language Arts class, here are a few ideas to help you get started.

Fellow ELA teacher (and holiday guru) The Classroom Sparrow and I have compiled a list of of ideas to help you find the perfect match for your class.

Most of us have a mental (or actual) wish list for our classrooms: the books we want to add to our libraries, the tools we want but don’t “need”, or the decorations that just aren’t in the budget. We fantasize about winning the lottery, having a successful Donors Choose list, getting a classroom makeover... or being in the audience for an episode of Oprah’s Favorite Things.

But what if Santa read your letter and bought everything on your list?

This December, four teachers are teaming up to grant one lucky teacher’s Wish List. Kristy (2 Peas and a Dog), Danielle (Nouvelle ELA), Lisa (Mrs. Spangler in the Middle), and Sara (Secondary Sara) are putting on their Santa hats to gift a teacher his or her Favorite Things!

So you’ve crafted the perfect discussion question about a chapter, but the room is full of crickets.
Or, just as bad, you have to wrestle apart two students who have taken things personally and are now ready to rumble, Outsiders-style.

How does an ELA teacher sneakily prevent literature discussions from going haywire, and what should we do in the heat of the moment when the drama begins?

Chatting with me today are two AWESOME fellow teachers, Jonathan and Lisa from Created for Learning.

Determined to coach your students into a growth mindset? Want them to value learning, and not just grades, absorbing your feedback and persevering to the finish line?

Well, as with most educational theories, fellow ELA teacher Mrs. Spangler in the Middle and I have found that there are some hurdles to getting middle school (and even high school) students into a growth mindset that actually sticks (and doesn't just sound good).

Why Growth Mindset Matters
Sara: Middle schoolers are still deciding who they are and still figuring out how to “do school”, so teaching them how to problem solve, calmly get through obstacles, and not give up on themselves is a critical foundation to build now, not later.

Lisa:  Middle School students need help to get a sense of the “big picture” to understand that what they do now affects their future (both immediate and long term).  Students need to see their learning as relevant to their college and career goals.

Struggle #1: Students who don’t want to work
Sara: Sometimes there's an underlying issue, but some students are still maturing and don't want to do “work” that isn't “fun”... so just telling them to persevere isn't going to suffice. I truly don't know a way around this other than a one-on-one conversation, because every student is SO different here. For example, I've known boys who were this way because they were already working a job and wanted school to be their fun place, and others who didn't want to work because they hadn't found their strengths/passions yet and weren't motivated to do much of anything. Those two scenarios had to be handled very differently.

Lisa: For me, these are the students that bank on social promotion and therefore don’t see the value in trying.  This is when I have to make trying valuable with my classroom reward system.  I tried this idea out this past year for a marking period to see what would happen by giving reward points (not tied to grades in any way)  to students for answering class questions or turning in work on time.  Even though this is an external form of value, it does get the ball rolling and will hopefully feel good enough to translate into internal motivation.  I found that my students were more invested in what was happening in class when reward points were used.

Struggle #2: Students who are ALREADY trying their best
Lisa:  For students that are already trying their best, growth mindset is a lot of baloney because they don’t see the effort paying off.  In this situation, I have made sure that the work that I ask these particular students to do is something they can actually complete successfully.  Once they start to experience to see good grades, their attitudes pick up and then they are willing to try things that are a bit more challenging.

Sara: This issue depends on the student. If it's a high achiever who is already working hard, then she might not like being told that she has to keep going or work even harder; she wants a reward. At that point, I either need to do a better job of recognizing what they ARE doing right, OR I need to chat with them individually about goal-setting, such as improving a weakness or growing a strength.

If it's a student who is still struggling despite a lot of effort, then it's time to ask questions about what they're doing. In many cases, they are working harder instead of smarter, like using a study method that isn't a good idea (and then feeling dejected when the test score isn't good). Help lower achievers learn grit by changing their process.

Struggle #3: Students who police their peers from trying too hard
Sara: In my school, the term “try-hard” was a derogatory name thrown at high achievers. Fortunately, there were a few ways around this. One was to make the reward good enough that the students wouldn't care if they were called a name. Another is to directly address it with the victims or the entire class. My dad always says, “When you're in front, people will shoot arrows at you.” Talk about this concept, and help students understand that “haters” are just jealous.

Lisa:  I went through this a bit this past school year.  I honestly asked the students “Why wouldn’t you try your best?” and turned it into a discussion and lesson on integrity.  We talked about what we “stand for” and then put these words on our own paper mirrors that I displayed in the room as a constant reminder of what we want others to see when they look at us.  

Struggle #4: Students who claim they’re trying (but it sure doesn’t look that way)
Sara: In this case, sometimes the students either don’t know what grit TRULY looks like (and thus don’t know that their version of “working hard” isn’t true grit), OR they are putting in the time and energy into something they need more training on. For example, a student who is terrible at grammar may have actually tried to proofread his paper, but the bad grade on his essay doesn’t seem that way.

When the latter happens, my job is to get to the root of the problem and try to coax them out of their rut, whatever it is. If I know that my student doesn’t have all the skills he needs to proofread, then it’s time to find out if it’s a widespread issue throughout the class, worth fixing in small-group differentiation or a large-group lesson.

If the student is having a skills issue (and not a content or learning issue), then it might be time to address their weakness in a non-threatening way. I have humorous student “diseases” posters that help us talk about “Procrastinitis”, upset binders, silence infections, and other student problems.

Lisa: I typically find students who get a poor grade on their test insist vehemently that they studied.  When I ask the students what exactly they did to study, more often than not I find that they simply looked at their notes.  That’s when there’s a discussion of “How to Study”.  I even made a video about it to help drive the concept home. Once the student realizes that studying takes time, I’ll usually hear “I don’t have time for all that!”   Then, I try to counter this by relating it to a lack of practice in sports.  I’ll ask the students if the top football player (or any famous player at the moment) just sat on his couch and ate chips all day, would he still be the best?  The answer is always an emphatic  “No!”  So then I’ll say “How can you be the best if you don’t make time to practice by completing your work or to put in the work of studying?”  Boom!

Do you have more ideas? Tell us in the comments!
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