Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Three letters PLC

First off I would like to ask who in the world came up with PLCs?

Before I go any further I need to tell you a little bit about myself...I like things to be organized, I enjoy being productive and in general I like being prepared ahead of time.

I was introduced to these three little letters two years ago.
I really had no idea what this PLC thing was going to be about and I'm pretty sure no one else around me did either.

The first two months of PLCing (yes, I just turned it into a verb) went fine...then again I do not remember anything significant happening. Then sometime in October I was over PLCs. It's like a truck carrying PLC ran me over and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I felt like I was not being productive and was being held captive. In my book not being productive is not an option...teaching three grade levels and IEPs...I don't have time to waste.

I had my fill of PLCs one Wednesday morning when I was sitting in a meeting and all of a sudden I had the urge to cry. I hate crying...nothing good ever comes out of crying. Tears were filling my eyes and my friend, who knew my frustration with PLCs, leaned over and sweetly said "why don't we take a walk."

I didn't budge because I knew if I left the meeting I was not coming I sat there doing nothing praying that the watery substance in my eyes would go away!

The meeting ended and we were released to go about our day.

I talked this incident over with a few teachers and I came to the conclusion that I personally needed to lower my expectations of PLCs....and what do you know it worked! I started bringing my interactive notebook and lesson materials to PLCs and that little act made these meetings more bearable. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

A nickel

I often shy away from telling others that I am a teacher. Instead I call myself an educator. I find this term more fitting. Teaching sounds temporary. I feel as teachers we often get stuck with going through the motions making sure every box is checked twice. Where as educating seems to go beyond the basic everyday lessons.  My role in the classroom surpasses teaching daily lessons.  In order to reach my students I myself have to know who my students are. I have to educate myself on who these people are that I encounter on a daily basis. What are their fears, hopes, passions and goals. Without this knowledge learning will only be superficial. This is why I went into education to motivate students to go beyond their limits. I did not become a teacher because I could not wait to teach students the difference between a simile and metaphor. My desire is to be the best educator possible so when my students leave my classroom they are equipped to conquer every goal they set for themselves.

So here's to completing the first five years of teaching and many more to come. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tricks of the trade

I stumbled upon two wonderful teaching strategies this past school year. They are not something you would use on a daily basis, but they are nice to have in your back pocket. 

Trick One: Go buy the most disgusting flavor of gum you can find at the store. I recommend Extra's Cinnamon Roll and Trident's Jelly Bean. When you find that a particular meeting is going longer than you would like, pull out the gum and offer it to those around you. Then sit back and watch as your colleagues wrap up the meeting as fast as they can. I came upon this trick during an IEP meeting. 

Trick Two: During the last two weeks of school things can get a little interesting. The amount of tasks that need to be accomplished can be overwhelming. Kids are typically losing their mind and finding interesting ways to entertain themselves. In hopes to finish packing up my classroom I decided to have a group of boys untangle a ball of twine. I had no intention of keeping the twine, but thought this might keep them occupied. Sure enough they worked on the giant knot for half the class. At one point they were spread out across the room creating a giant web of some sort as the rest of us maneuvered around each strand. This went on for several days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Those $40

When I was younger I had a strange love for office supplies, mainly pens. I think by being left handed I am always trying to find that one pen that is 100% smudge free and writes effortlessly. My admiration for office supplies has not faded. There's something about the array of colors and endless possibilities that makes me all giddy. Well, one Friday night I somehow found myself meandering the office supply aisle and came across the deal of the century or so I thought. Glue sticks are constantly being used in my class thus requiring me to always badger the office for more of these pesky sticks. This one Friday night I stumbled upon packs of glue sticks that had been marked to clearance.  What does a teacher do with this lovely discovery you ask, we take the entire stock. So here I am, with an abnormal amount of glue sticks piling high in my cart. Feeling quite proud of myself I head to the check out and dish out $40 on glue alone. I go home pleased with my new glue supply only to wake up Saturday morning shaking my head when I realize I actually spent $40 on glue. Since then I have banned myself from the office supply section especially after a long day at school.
This being said, another Donors Choose project is up and waiting to be funded. Just in case anyone is feeling generous.
Notebooks, Get Your Notebooks

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer time problems

If you were to rewind my life two months ago my worries of that time to today are vastly different. In May I was focused on grades, exams and progress reports. Today my concern is centered around the fact that my Cheerios are spilling over my bowl.
I know, I should alert the media to this crisis.

 To be honest I've never been a fan of summer vacation. Don't get me wrong I love the first two weeks but after that, I'm over it. I love what I do and feel that my purpose in life has been put on hold. I think in general the public is under the impression that teachers have a pretty great life when it comes to summer. What they fail to realize is that summer time brings a lot of change and with that change comes uncertainty and anxiety. How we left last school year is not how we will begin the new one. Summer time is like a snow globe. Over the course of two and a half months* everything is swirled around. Classrooms, subject area, students, faculty, school location, administration, curriculum, assessments, colleagues, new procedures are all likely to change. When teachers start a new school year it's as if we are starting a new job all over again. 

Teachers put on a pretty good show. We seem calm and put together, but if you were to jump into our thoughts your outlook may change.

*ya let's clear this misconception up, that's right two and a half months, we do not get three months off. Let's add in the fact that we are often in trainings during our time off. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tinker bell and The Crocodile

The age old pastime of skipping class can be interpreted differently when coming from two groups of students. To an 8th grader skipping class takes on a figurative meaning, but to a 6th grader this phrase is interpreted quite literally. 

My dear sweet 6th grader was listening to this massively tall 8th grader complain about going to his next class. He was deciding where the best place was to skip when the perky 6th grader demonstrated how you skip down the hall correctly to get to your next class. It's safe to say that the 8th grader did not find her cuteness amusing or entertaining. I am certain that if he was a crocodile he would of snatched Tinkerbell from sprinkling her pixie dust right out of the air. To make matters worse he decided to skip his next class by standing right outside of my door. Not smart. 

And to top it all off
The 8th grader was skipping P.E
Who skips that class anyways?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Truth: I am procrastinating.
Fact: I should be writing an IEP.
Flashback to two weekends ago...walking IEP...this scenario is repeating itself.
I'd much rather paint my nails which takes a total of three minutes compared to creating an IEP which is  close to three hours. At least I have something pretty to look at while I click away.
OPI kiss me I'm Brazillian

Verdict: OPI was declared the winner

Friday, March 28, 2014

That empty chair

I typically have one of these chairs in each class. Day in and day out there seems to be an empty chair. That chair should have a student in it and yet it doesn't. For this reason or that a student did not make it to class today. 

I often wonder what will happen to students who perpetually miss class on a regular basis. Perhaps schools not for them and they will seek other options to educate themselves. As educators, we desire for our students to be successful, but if they do not want that success for themselves then why bother. 

This week there has been a particular desk that has been empty. A student that I have been with for the last three years is finding it difficult to finish what they started. Every avenue has been traveled down to assist this student onto the path of success and nothing seems to work. After awhile all we can do is hand that student a map, wish them well and continue on our journey of helping others. Is it difficult to see that empty desk? Yes, but after a while there is not much I can do. How can I fill an empty chair if the student it belongs to does not want to be there?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Walking IEP

A couple weekends ago I was procrastinating writing an IEP for Monday morning because who has time to write an IEP during the school week?  
That darn IEP hung over the entire weekend like a little grey rain cloud. 
Monday morning comes along and did I complete an ounce of that IEP


So this is me Monday morning drying my hair with one hand and clicking/typing away on that IEP. Preparing my coffee and breakfast while creating the accommodations lists. Making myself presentable and rewording teacher's input into a paragraph format. Wherever I went the laptop followed me as I desperately tried to complete the IEP. Thankfully, I was finished with the IEP before the meeting. Did the parents show? No!

A high five would suffice

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hello Sunshine


Fact 1:
My classroom contains ZERO windows. Even the window on the door only lets in artificial light from the hallway.

Fact 2:
I never turn on my over head lights. I prefer to light my classroom with lamps...a total of nine lamps to be exact.

This brings us to today's middle school statement brought to you by a 6th grader:
Student: Miss can you turn on the sunshine? 
Me: What!?!?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Caroline's Cart

There are numerous every day life events that I personally take for granted. For example, going to the grocery store with my family and not having to worry about how we will maneuver in and out of the aisles. I have a hard enough time not hitting people with a shopping cart let alone trying to operate a wheel chair for a loved one as well. One family made it their mission to ease this everyday life event for families with special needs children. 

Drew Ann and David were experiencing frustration when they ventured out shopping with their daughter Caroline who has special needs. Through the help and support of Easter Seals a special cart was created. Caroline's Cart is a shopping cart designed for children with special needs. With the use of this cart parents are given more freedom in how they transport their child through stores. Their goal is to enable special needs children to move more freely with their family through every-day life. They hope to one day make Caroline's Cart available at retailers across the country. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reacting to labels

 I don't know about you, but I check expiration dates on food more than I like to admit. Once a particular food item has reached its due date I automatically wave good bye. I don't know why I can't get past that stupid date. I know I'm not going to die if I eat yogurt that expired yesterday, but somehow I can't get past the label. 

The same can be said about disabilities. We see these labels on people and assume that such and such person is going to be too much to handle just based on a label that is tied to their name. I'm 100% guilty of this and I teach special education. 

During my first year of teaching I was given a student who had a label of autism. Before I even laid eyes on this kid I already felt like I knew him just based on his label. A part of me was excited, my first student with autism and then the other part of me was feeling oh dear autism. When he walked in my room I automatically noticed his size; he towered over my 5'1" frame. I braced myself for what he was going to pull out of his autism bag of tricks. Class was coming to a close and I decided to lay down the law. I walked over and sternly explained the way I ran my class and how I had zero tolerance for any funny business. He politely sat at his desk and nodded along.

Weeks passed and nothing happened. No major explosions, meltdowns or nightmares occurred. All the stories and scenarios I read about autism was not playing itself out in my classroom. To be completely honest I was a little disappointed. I mean how could I earn my "autism badge of courage" if I didn't deal with a major autism related catastrophe? I slowly began to realize that I had over reacted to this student's label. 

When I came to this realization I was horrified. How could I judge someone based on their label? I hated when I was treated differently based on my label and now I was partaking in the same type of judgement. I understand why students must carry around their label so we can provide them with the best education possible, but is there a way that we can bypass the overreacting to their label?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cute aspect

When you think of a teacher what comes to mind
I really hope someone thought of Jessica Day from New Girl...although I do not think she is still a teacher on the show. 

I'm not a big fan of the cuteness of education. You know...the warm fuzzies, an array of color and glitter. Which may sound funny to those who have been in my classroom because it has color and some glitter. 
There is nothing I love more than a sarcastic teacher with an edge. I have no idea how to relate to bubbly teachers that have butterflies and rainbows sprouting from their very existence...they creep me out. So here is my own rendition of Jessica Day's quotable:

Oh hey, I have something to say and I'm pretty sure you may interpret it as less than positive. I smile when I am telling the truth, which is a semi-problem. I do not like rocking school related t-shirts to school or anywhere else. I have touched a handful of colorful pens within the last nine hours. I spend my entire day talking to teenagers, which most people try to avoid.  And I find it fundamentally strange that a teacher's worth is based on a test score. That's just cruel. And I'm sorry I don't talk like I am Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. And I hate when people put on a front. I wish we could say what we wanted and wouldn't be called negative. And that doesn't mean I'm not a positive person it just means that I am who I am.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A little pick me up

This letter came in the mail last Thursday totally out of the blue. Friday's blog post will explain to you that I am not a fan of the warm and fuzzy feelings. With that being said I did get teary eyed reading this letter, but thanks to my clogged tear duct no tears were shed. 

Sometimes as educators we may never know how much we influence students. This particular student is a sophomore in high school now. She was full of spunk and attitude when she was in my classroom. At the time this student was at my school ESE teachers were trying to push students out into the general education classroom instead of being stuck in intensive academic classes. This push towards placing students into the general education classroom has stopped thanks to our course codes being switched to the same as gen. ed. In a way having the same course codes is great, but now there really is no reason to place ESE students into gen. ed. classes since we now have identical course codes.

 I think its safe to say that inclusion has died because of these course codes. ESE students are not being mixed in with gen. ed. students they are stuck with one another in the same classes year after year. When ESE students are together they tend to feed off of one another's deficits.  I miss the days of motivating students to work hard so they can have the opportunity to get out of intensive academic classes. It breaks my heart knowing that there are students that would thrive by being placed out of I.A classes, but are not given the chance. The sad thing is that we try to place them out of our classes, but they eventually find their way back into our classrooms or their schedules are never changed. This lack of inclusion in the classroom setting is only short changing students with disabilities to reach their true potential. 

I wish schools would put inclusion as its top priority in education. I think if inclusion was more of a priority other problems would disappear. Schools need to be provided with resources, funding and support in order for inclusion to even have a chance. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The non-passing ones

I hate failing students, but at the same time I don't understand how you fail a class. I mean it's not that hard to pass....listen, follow directions, work hard and complete's not rocket science. What boggles my mind even more is that there are students that have straight 100%s and then those that have 34%s. 
Quarter three is coming to a close which prompts me to create a whose failing list for each grade level. Each quarter I create this list and have noticed there are repeat offenders. I typically post this list two weeks prior to the quarter ending so they can get their act together and pass. There is nothing I hate more when a student asks for extra work when they are failing because we all know that if you did the work that was assigned this conversation would not be happening. 

 The sad thing is that a majority of the students on this list seem not to care...they're not panicking! They either don't care or they're so used to this happening that failing does not phase them. At this point in the game if you have failed multiple quarters the chances of you having to repeat a class is rather high. Even this piece of information does not seem to light the fire underneath them. Not only are the students not freaking out, but the parents are not even calling to see why they are not passing. I am the one calling the parents and informing them on their student's non-passing grade. Now tell me there anything wrong with this scenario?