Friday, October 10, 2014

Adapters

I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of people when it comes to change. Those that adapt and those that complain. Complaining keeps things consistent for the most part; while adapting allows room for growth. Don't get me wrong consistency is nice, but growing isn't all that bad either. I hope I am one who adapts to change. I sure have experienced some change these last couple of months. With common core shenanigans, switching counties and schools, adjusting to a new form of teaching and living in a new city. Change is part of my daily schedule. Complaining about it's recurrence will only make matters worse. If you are going to refuse to adapt to change then do it quietly because the sound of complaining can become quiet draining. 

Here's a tip. Try smiling when change happens. It's hard to be in an awful mood when there's a smile plastered on your face.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

That one time...

It's one thing to be caught texting in class, but to recreate a cell phone on an index card and pass it to your friends in class deserves a round of applause. To be honest with you I was in complete awe that a student would go to this length to text in class. Imagine if this much effort was put into class work. Perhaps our grades would not be on the lower end of the spectrum.

Background: this student had their phone taken away by their parents; which obviously caused severe enough withdrawal to create an illustration of a cell phone. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Paper buffet

It's funny how we tend to worry about the littlest things sometimes. Over the last several weeks my main worry is focused around paper. I know odd. Who worries about paper. Apparently I do now. I've never been one to worry about paper but when you're given five reams of paper to last you the entire school year, worry tends to happen. To be honest, I didn't really know what a ream was until the beginning of this school year. I've heard of the word I just didn't know how big a ream was. Turns out it's a single pack of paper. I was hoping it would be a box of paper, but I was wrong. To make matters worse my paper worry has seeped into my dreams. Yep, I dreamed of endless amounts of paper and then had other dreams where I was experiencing a paper drought.  I have started to look at paper in a totally new light. Each piece more precious than a pound of gold. This paper worry is new territory for me. For the last five years I have been surrounded by endless amounts of paper at school. A paper buffet if you have it. At any given moment I could grab a pack of paper and no one would question me. Now, I slightly considered locking my paper up just to keep it safe. I triple think how many copies I need to make. If a student loses their notes they better fork over two dollars for me to print another copy. Who needs to have hard copies of IEP accommodations; I'll just look them up on the computer.

 Oh are the days of endless paper.   

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Unforgettables

There will always be unforgettable students and moments in education. Friday provided me with two unforgettable moments. 

1. A student in my second period class looked me up and down and asked if I was willing to take his mom shopping because she apparently has issues dressing cool and I do not.

2. It has taken six years, but it finally happened. A student said they "F***ing hate this class." This outburst warranted an impromptu meeting after the bell and I congratulated this student for being the first to ever say that in my class. I informed this little darling that I will remember this day for the rest of my life and that I was grateful that I at least liked what I was wearing that day. 

I ended Friday by taking a stroll through Trader Joes where I bought sunflowers and the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. It only seemed natural.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inclusion

A word that has always and will always weigh heavy on my heart. Funny thing is that I am now in the mist of an inclusive environment. Something that I have been longing for a couple of years now. I'm used to self contained classes and a very wimpy version of inclusion. 

You know, the kind with all the ESE kids a few gen. Ed. ones in the same class and two teachers (one ESE and the other gen. ed.). Not my idea of what inclusion looks like.

 Now I have what I would define as a true inclusive environment. A class of twenty some students with less than half of them receiving ESE services. This past week I witnessed the beauty of what an inclusion classroom can do. Students working hand in hand to discover the theme of a story. A low murmur filled the classroom as groups of students found evidence to support their answers from the text. These two groups of students, the ones with labels and the label less ones, blended together. This experience made my heart happy.  I drove to work Friday morning knowing that the ESE students I love so much may have a chance to fit into this world with little to no fuss. Now will everyday go as planned, absolutely not. But it's nice know that inclusion works and everyone can benefit from this model.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Orientation

First off, the word orientation is a funny word. Especially when you consider the opposite of this word: disoriented. Sitting in a day long orientation can bring up an array of emotions ranging from excitement, gloom, giddiness and boredom.

Typically the purpose of these meetings is to familiarize yourself to your new surroundings. The funny thing is they cram so much information at you within a couple of hours that when you are finally released you feel disoriented.

Here is the information that was graciously given to me yesterday:
Avoid touching blood
Think twice before hugging a kid
Do you want to join the union
Teachers do not have freedom of speech
PPOs & HMOs
Do you want to join the union
Safety first
Each observation is a piece of the puzzle
Do you want to join the union

I will pay someone $5 if they create a "Do you want to join the union" song to the tune of "do you want to build a snowman"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Change

'The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not of fighting the old, but building the new'
-Socrates

Building a new beginning can be intimidating and overwhelming. Where does one begin?

Well as much as I enjoy awkward situations I do not enjoy uncomfortable ones! For the 2012-2013 school year I was debating leaving my school to move to another county and teaching there. I ended up staying at my school for an additional year knowing that I would make the transition at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The uncomfortable situation dealt with telling my principal that I was leaving. Me wanting to move to a different county was in no way a surprise. It was only a matter of time before I made the move.

 My first mission after telling my principal was to create a kick a** resume. I have never been a fan of the traditional resume. In my opinion your resume should stand out among the rest. Through the help of Craft Pimp that mission was accomplished. She did an outstanding job and was more than patient after each countless change that was suggested. She took my lack of vision and created a resume that made me look pretty good on a piece of paper.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Apartaclassroom

When I first moved into my classroom five years ago I already started to dread the day when I would have to move out. Despite the fact that I teach middle school and one subject teaching supplies tend to add up one way or another. Thankfully, a majority of my materials came from Donors Choose. Not to mention there is an overflowing amount of books. 

I've always tried to keep work and home separate. There has been some success with this separation. Every now and then an IEP will need to be worked on or a handful of essays will require editing, but other than that home and school have not spent too much time together. 
Well this summer the two have collided in full force. I not only moved to a new apartment in a different city, but my classroom came along with it.  So now my classroom sits in my apartment waiting to be moved to its new home.

In other news, I was able to get inside my classroom this week.
High five.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The rough life

Let me introduce you to what summer looks like:
I know what you're thinking this looks pretty rough. Eating a nectarine at the beach could be the definition of perfection. This picture was not taken during the weekend, but on a Thursday in the afternoon. Although I am usually not a fan of summer time I do enjoy partaking in summerish activities. Mainly the ability to do whatever I want and not feel the need to accomplish a to-do list. In a few short weeks my Thursdays will take on an entirely new look and I'm okay with that. Bring on the new school year!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Top 10ish

During the last week of school I decided to have students create a top 10 list of the school year. After explaining what they were going to do I quickly realized that none of them have heard of a top 10 list (add this to my list of disappointments with today's youth). This prompted me to create a top 10ish list of my own.

Ms. Halls top 10 of this school year (I realize there is more than 10...now you know why I do not teach math)

1. Watching M receive his award in true Rocky form
2. Actually liking the group of 6th graders I have this year...they may be my favorite (shh don't tell them)
3. Shuperific
4. Watching E, S, M and D run their little hearts out
5. No longer going home to grade essays for hours because the FL writes is over
6. Realizing that Mr. Irwin is M's secret BFF
7. Watching M.C Skip down the hall at the end of the day
8. Peter Pan
9. Making students squirm during their IEPs
10. 2:05 on May 28th
11. Watching Ms. A show off her sweet basketball skills
12. Students trying to conceal their gum while they are in class...FYI I'm not stupid
13. Do you want to build a snow man
14. The fear in students faces when they realize their monthly articles are due that day
15. Secretly cursing in class but not really...look there's a water dam
16. Accepting the fact that S will never stop talking EVER
17. When I go an entire day without M touching my food
18. Being handed a citation because I had gum and didn't share
19. S busting a move
20. Listening to  B's non stop complaining...jk
21. J's hair
22. Freaking students out because I am eating something that looks gross
23. Dear Darla
24. When a student is being picked up in the office by their parent and I decide to have an impromptu parent conference
25. Public shaming
26. Throwing things at students (with their permission)
27. What are the people that eat other people...carnivals
28. What the Hell...




Friday, July 25, 2014

Pajama interview

Going on a two an a half week vacation to Hawaii while searching for a job in Florida is not ideal. Prior to leaving I assembled cover letter and resume packets to send out to schools that I was interested in. The two counties I was looking at had yet to post any jobs. 

I'm not sure why they take their sweet time posting vacancies.

 While waiting to board the plane I once again checked to see if any jobs had been posted and sure enough there they were all lined up on the screen. My automatic thought was to cancel the trip and pursue school after school.  Thankfully, I realized my crazy notion was not smart and put my trust in The Lord as I flew to paradise. A week into island life I had selected three different positions and was waiting to see if anyone would bite at my offer. Nothing happened. Managing stress while in Hawaii is not that difficult. The water is bluer than blue, the air is crisp and the landscape is breath taking. 
While laying in the sand one day the phone calls started rolling in just like the waves. Five schools wanted to set up interviews with me. When I told them I was currently in Hawaii I received no sympathy. Two schools set up phone interviews while the other three set up face to face ones when I returned. The first phone interview was set for 9:30 a.m Florida time which translates to 3:30 a.m in Hawaii. I had to be bright eyed and bushy tailed at an unbelievable hour.

The 3:30 interview felt like a dream. I had awakened myself 30 minutes prior to the phone call in hope that I would be fully functioning. Wishful thinking on my part. I was asked nine questions during the interview. One of the questions was how I incorporate literacy in my classroom and my initial response was "well...I have a lot of books." Not the best response, but I some how recovered. Interview had ended and I crawled back in bed hoping everything would turn out for the best. Sure enough, the next day I received the phone call offering me the job in which case I gladly accepted. 

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 back...so 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

OPI vs. IEP

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

N.O.P.E

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

TWO FACTS

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 assignment...it'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 ...is there anything wrong with this scenario?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The A word

Accommodations
That's the A word I'm referring to
Providing reasonable and necessary accommodations to students with disabilities is a vital teacher responsibility. Sometimes this responsibility can become burdensome when there are fifteen students in one classroom all acquiring an accommodation of some sort. At one point or another we might scratch our head and wonder why must we accommodate when in the real world the likelihood of them receiving the same accommodations as in the classroom is slim. 

I believe one of the many reasons accommodations are offered and provided for students in a school setting is to help them become their own advocate. Without providing these accommodations to students with disabilities they may never develop a system to successfully maneuver hurdles that their disabilities will present themselves in the real world. We must teach them 'tricks' on how to deal with their disability. If students with disabilities are shown ways to manage challenges they face with their disability then they will start accommodating themselves. In order for them to learn how to accommodate themselves we must first show them by providing accommodations in the classroom. Eventually, they will naturally start accommodating for themselves and will learn how to compensate for their disability. 

Will every student become their own advocate and accommodate for themselves, no. But I'd rather show students how to accommodate for their disability than complain that I have to provide accommodations for my students in the classroom. They have to be shown that their ability out shines their disability. If I was not given accommodations when I was in school I am 87% sure that my disability would drown me. Thankfully, I had teachers that provided me with accommodations that lightened the load. Without my teachers showing me ways to cope with my disability I might not have made it to where I am today. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dear paperwork,

           
               I think it's fair to say that I have a love-hate relationship with you. I honestly do not mind spending excessive amounts of time with you. I actually enjoy the process of making sure everything is filed in the correct order. Unfortunately, there is this thing called teaching that is getting in the way of our relationship. Let's face it teaching requires a majority of my attention because she is 100% selfish and only thinks of herself. Which therefore puts you on the back burner. I hope you are not offended by this. Perhaps one day teaching will relinquish it's hold on me and then we will be able to spend even more time together.

                                        Sincerely,
                                                Your long lost friend


P.S. if you could work on not giving me paper cuts that would be great!


FACT
I really do not mind paperwork. What I do mind is not having time to complete this paperwork. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The one with the kool-aid



Class had just begun and for some reason or another two students were by my desk and one got a little too close to the other when this piece of goodness popped out of their mouth:
"You are all up in my kool-aide and you don't even know the flavor."
It took me a minute for this statement to register, but when it did I about died from laughter.

I was later told I could not get away with saying this because I am white...
Non the less I have said this phrase in various conversations

Friday, February 28, 2014

K.I.T: Kids Included Together

Inclusion is something near and dear to my heart. Coming from both a personal and professional background I know how vital inclusion can be in schools and communities. I have seen how inclusion can open doors for individuals and how the lack of inclusion only limits an individuals true potential. The sole purpose of inclusion is to expand opportunities which allows everyone to be an equal participant in life. 

Kids Included Together (KIT) began in 1997. This organization focuses on providing best practices training for communities to include children with and without disabilities into their recreational, child development and youth programs. 

K.I.T believes that disabilities are a natural part of life. They view disabilities as a way to foster diversity opposed to a deficiency. I truly believe that if more people adopted K.I.Ts outlook on disabilities our education system and communities would be completely different. 


For more information about K.I.T you can visit their

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It might seem crazy what I'm about to say...

But I'm pretty happy that the FL is no longer going to stay. If I look giddy for the next couple of days it's because I am elated...no strike that I am ecstatic! 

There are numerous reasons that make me happy...
No more pressure.
No more cheesy writing.
No more essays to grade.
No more ridiculous prompts.
No more tracking down students asking where their essay is.
No more wanting to cry because they don't capitalize the beginning of their sentence.

I'm sure that down the road the happiness will fade...let's face it I teach ESE the land where happiness goes to die.* The chances of bad news coming down the road talking this and that is a possibility. If I hear that so-and-so's essays score was less than pleasing. There is not much I can do about it. The fact of the matter is that my students and myself have been working our tail off since August. So if anyone has something to say that is less than motivating, they should be warned that we will be just fine...it's best that they don't waste our time. Because in the end we are happy that we worked hard and did the best we possibly could. I hope people do not take any offense to this. No one can bring us down because today we will be happier than a room without a roof. We know the true definition of happiness lies beyond a test score.


I dare you to watch this video and not be happy!


Reality Check
I teach Language Arts so there will always be essays to grade.
:)

* for those that cannot pick up on sarcasm 
I'm not being negative...I'm being sarcastic
There is a difference

Monday, February 24, 2014

The time has come

The FL writes is tomorrow! Hurray!
I honestly have had fewer panic attacks over this years writing than in years past.  I feel confident that I have done everything within my means to prepare them for this assessment. I know that regardless of what the scores are that my students have the ability to write an essay. My students as well as myself are more than a test score. I will keep my hopes high that they will be able to successful demonstrate how amazing they truly are tomorrow when they are writing their essay. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The business of running a classroom

There are various methods that tell teachers how to run a classroom. Some will change your classroom for the better while others will not survive to see lunch. 
Kagan is cute
Flipping your classroom sounds interesting
Whole brain learning
Blooms
Multiple intelligence
and the list continues

My outlook is that I run my classroom like a business. It's simple, logical and makes sense to me...nothing fluffy or cute just the basics. Here is the break down of running a classroom like a business.

Students 
Are my clients. You want them to be satisfied and happy so they will  come back the next day ready to learn. I am sure we have our handful of "difficult" clients we have to deal with on a daily basis. 

Paraprofessionals,OT,PT, speech/language pathologists and staffing specialist 
Are my board of directors. Since I am an ESE teacher there are people coming and going at different points in the week. They are the ones that truly see me as who I am in the classroom. They are not administration coming in for a quick observation, they are there to help my students and make my job easier. I feel comfortable around them, they see what I do in the classroom and never pass any judgement. 

Teachers
To put it simply they are my coworkers. I love them all even the ones that are no longer at my school. The wealth of knowledge that they possess is outstanding and encouraging. There is nothing I like more than brainstorming with them about various lessons. 

Parents
Are my investors. Some are overly invested and others are barely there. 

Administration
Are the presidents of the company. Not an active participant in running the business, but their presence can be felt and their request are listened to. Truth be told I had a hard time categorizing them...I feel that their role could change...possible by standers in running a classroom.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Under Pressure

Am I the only one that when they hear Queen's Under Pressure they think Vanilla Ice's iconic song is about to come blaring through their speakers? They both start with a similar beat...it's pure trickery I tell you!

Needless to say Queen's Under Pressure is a fitting song for the approaching season for teachers. It's time to perform and by perform I mean we will be the spectators to our own Olympic events.

Testing Olympic events will include
writing
reading
math
science

Unlike the Olympics where the athletes almost automatically know how they performed we, teachers, students, parents and administration, have to wait months for the scores to be delivered. Will we win a gold, silver, bronze or will we not even be deemed fitting for a medal?

The first event in the Testing Olympics will be February 25th. The Florida Writes is almost here. We had at my school what could be compared to the opening of the Testing Olympics this past Friday. All the 8th graders were gathered and given a surprise writing prompt. The group that I was the spectator of were seven of my own students. Students that I have poured more than enough time and effort to prep them for this test. As I painstakingly watched them frown their little foreheads as they tried to wrap their mind around what they were told to write; I could not help think that my worth as a teacher is riding on how well they perform on a test. Are they able to produce a well written essay? Will they become frustrated and just give up? Am I going to be told that my scores are horrible? How in the world is this fair?

By the end of Friday I had been given a majority of my students essays back from their mock FL writes. I really only looked at one and barely glanced at the others. I cannot tell you how disheartened and disappointed I felt by the one essay I did look at. This essay in particular nearly brought me to tears. It contained a mere couple of sentences in what was supposed to be a five paragraph essay. What makes this essay even worse is that it belongs to a student who has shown the most growth in their writing. I know that my students can write. I have proof. I have seen with my very own eyes that they have the ability to write a well developed essay.

If I were to title the picture above I would call it "Under Pressure"


Monday, February 17, 2014

Persuade me!

Typically, while 8th graders are prepping for the FL writes their interactive notebooks are neglected. Well, there not entirely neglected. After Thanksgiving break we started focusing on persuasive essays. Writing a persuasive essay is typically more difficult to grasp unlike an expository one. To introduce persuasive writing we discussed the difference between persuasive and expository, went over the goals in writing a persuasive essay, the order of this type of essay and then they practiced by writing a persuasive paragraph on soda machines in schools. 
 Each student read their paragraph out loud to the class; who then had to decide if they were persuaded by what they were hearing.







Two weeks ago I gave a mock FL writes. When they finished writing they were given a FL writes rubric. They were instructed to create a fold-able on the four main areas on how their essay would be graded. They then had to pull out information from the rubric that related to grading an essays: focus, organization, support and conventions. On the outside of each flap they wrote themselves reminders on what they needed to do on the day of the test.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Show don't Tell

In preparation for the FL writes we have been focusing on writing descriptive sentences that paint a picture in the readers mind. This method of writing is often refereed to as 'Show Don't Tell'
The students were given this fold-able that I created using Word. I presented six reasons for why showing is better than telling:
1. Helps the readers make pictures in their mind
2. Showing makes writing interesting
3. Showing is more specific than telling
4. Showing makes the reader slow down. Focuses on one thing longer, sentences are longer
5. The sound of words are: smoother, flows and musical
6. Showing requires specific vocabulary
With each reason students drew a picture that correlated to the reason 

They were then given telling sentences that they have to turn into showing sentences. There was a total of eight sentences that dealt with a prompt they were writing. 
I related reading a telling essay to a black & white movie and a showing essay to a movie in color.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Word to the wise

One of the many joys of teaching middle school is note passing. Unfortunately, this occurrence does not happen very often. When I do come upon a student passing a note I causally and quietly take the note. The contents of  the note usually dictates what actions follow. This particular note suited my fancy especially after reading the first line. At the time the class was involved in an independent activity which allowed me time to edit this student's note. Once this was complete, I handed the note back to the student informing them if they are to pass notes they might as well do it with little if any errors. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

To respond or not to respond

When you work with students, especially in middle school, there is a chance that odd little comments and questions will be heard on a daily basis. Since we are officially back from break I have been asked some odd questions as well as heard some interesting remarks. Here is this weeks odd questions and remarks brought to you by a 7th grader and 8th graders

During vocabulary bell work
7th grader: Miss do you have an extra pair of earrings
Me: No, why would you ask me that
7th grader: Because of all of my teachers you would be the one to have an extra pair

While grading an essay
8th grader: Miss do you know what you look like?
Me (awkwardly looking up): Uhh no, what?
8th grader: You look like a baby doll today.
Me (concerned look on my face): Thank you?!?

During a writing group
8th grader: Miss you're Cuban right?
Me: Why would you think I'm Cuban?
8th grader: Because you're blonde and pale...most Cuban girls are like that.
Me: Well, I'm from Texas and I'm definitely not Cuban
8th grader: Oh, if you wanted to pretend to be Cuban you could pull it off
Me: I'll keep that in mind





Friday, February 7, 2014

Ignore method

 I am pretty sure this teaching method was not taught in college.
Some professionals might frown on my method I used on this one particular student, but to each his own.

So this 6th grader is adorable and has potential to be bright. When you uncover the outer layers you realize that this student craves positive attention and will wither at the thought that he has disappointed someone. For instance, on our way back from lunch one day he was mildly clowning around; the assistant principal caught him and reamed him a new one. Well, the poor thing was completely useless the rest of the class period because he was licking his wounds. 

After failing Q1 I decided to step up my game with this young man because he was too smart to fail. I think it's safe to say that every time he picked up his pencil he would quiver in fear I would catch a mistake. You see I wasn't out to get him I just really wanted to help him reach his true potential. Well, he wasn't doing so hot at the end of Q2. I decided to back off a little. Instead of having his desk right by me I put him as far away as possible. I did not check for understanding with him or ask if he needed help. I let him on his own to figure things out. In fact I directly told the student my plan of action.

"Since October I have watched you like a hawk and not much has changed. So now I am going to ignore you and if you need help you know where to find me." The shocked looked on his face and his "huh" said it all. The mama bird was leaving the baby bird to figure it out on his own. If he wants to fly he knows what to do. 

For the next two weeks he sat in the far left corner of the classroom. He rarely asked for help and did not talk to others, he just did his work. At week three during a lesson on author's purpose he sought me out for questioning on an assignment. Each day he would become more confident in his work and would ask questions or check to make sure he was doing it right. You could almost see his feathers fluffing up. The end of week four was approaching when the baby bird made his move. He ever so gently came to me at my desk and sweetly asked if he could return to his desk by the front. I responded by saying of course. 

This brings us to present day where the baby bird is still by my desk. I do not hover over him like before. I let him struggle and make countless mistakes. He knows what to do and how to fix them now. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Praise before critisize

I have graded my fair share of essays this year. I don't particularly care to know how many I have read and marked up because it may lead to tears.  I do know that grading essays can bring forth an array of emotions. Ranging from wanting to hug a student because their essay is pure amazingness and then the other end of ripping an essay up because it is garbage. I have experienced extreme highs and bottomless lows this year all thanks to grading essays. 

I know for my students the act of picking up a pencil, thinking and putting words on a page takes effort. Writing in general is not easy plus there are risks involved. Generating original thought on a piece of paper and awaiting judgement from your reader is ten times more nerve raking than taking a fill in the bubble test. 

In order to build momentum with student's writing as well as encourage them, praise must come before criticism. No student wants to be handed an essay that is filled with errors that needs to be corrected. I feel that it is necessary to recognize students for a job well done before I dissect every word they put in their essay.  Even if it is thanking them for writing legible, find some small part of their work that deserves praise before the cloud of criticism rains down. 
There have been students that have kept the positive post-it-notes that they have received in their writing folder since the beginning of the year; while the criticizing notes have some how disappeared!

Truth moment
It's not always easy to find the positive over the negative in an essay. I am guilty of writing over a student's essay "START OVER AGAIN!"
not my proudest moment

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mastering vocabulary

I have a 6th grader that is not that great at taking spelling and definition tests.
This student is one of those that appears to have a lot of potential, but has yet to figure out a way to use it.
...especially when it comes to vocabulary words...
His main problem is that he does not study. I think he, as well as other students, do not know how to study.
So after another definition test had been taken and failed again I came up with this:
I emphasize breaking spelling words up into syllables that way they seem more manageable. 
This foldable breaks up a spelling words syllables, gives the word as a whole and then has the definition on the back. Depending on how many syllables the word has is how many cuts you make on the fold. 

Time will tell if this student will use this new method of mastering his vocabulary
fingers crossed
First spelling test taken with this new study method resulted in a B-...not too shabby!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Teach for America

There have been a couple adorable teacher items that have been popping up lately that benefit Teach for America. I wish I could say I had the will power to say no to both items, but sadly I did not. Of course it does not help that I found these items at two of my favorite stores: J. Crew and West Elm

First up J.Crews Teach for America t-shirt. There are two designs the one below is the female/girls design. There is also a canvas tote available. 100% of the net proceeds from these sales will be donated to Teach for America.

Next, we have West Elms Teach for America mug. I don't know about you, but one essential for starting my day is coffee. What better way to begin a school day than sipping out of this adorable mug? 50% of this mugs proceed will go to benefiting Teach for America. Unfortunately, the mug is sold out online, but can still be found in stores. 

Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that trains and places recent college graduates and professionals in high needs communities nationwide to aide in ensuring that all students recieve an excellent education.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Out of time

So the ever so lovely State of the Union address occurred
One of the topics was that we are not reaching students in time
I agree that students are not being reached in time because when they reach me it is often too late.

The solution to this dilemma according to the State of the Union is high quality pre-education which sounds great, but what about those students who have passed this opportunity? I know the President is looking forward to measuring how students think compared to how they fill in a bubble. I am just a tad bit concerned with the students who have run out of time.

Case in point 
 An 8th grader sits in my classroom struggles to write a cohesive sentence let alone a five paragraph essay.
A 7th grader shys away from reading aloud in class because he is at a first grade reading level.
A 6th grader routinely fails vocabulary spelling and definition tests.
So, what do I do with them? Set our clocks back and pray for the best?


Monday, January 27, 2014

Square peg round hole

I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with my colleagues regarding this topic. No, we are not discussing blocks, but ESE students. We talk our way around and around and never come up with a simple solution because we are dealing with square pegs and only have round holes. Sometimes the problem is only made worse by other professionals because they fail to understand what we are dealing with. All they see is what other educators are able to do and then they look at us and wonder why are we not getting the same results...I mean we have the same resources available so why are the results dramatically different? Well, here is your answer we have a square peg which does not for the life of us fit into that darn round hole.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Teacher accommodations

If you could create a list of accommodations that teachers would be given in the classroom for themselves to use what would be on that list?

I think it's only fair that teachers are given accommodations. I mean we have to provide them to our students so why not receive them ourselves. Over break I asked some teachers what their accommodations would be if they were given the opportunity. Some of them are serious while others are pure entertainment!

TEACHER ACCOMMODATIONS:
Everyone had extended time on their list
A cap on the number of students they have
Only required to satisfactorily complete one half of all paper work
All instruction from the district must be re-explained/re-worded to me quietly
When frustrated allowed to use a special pass to step outside or to the office to "take a breather"
A pass to use the restroom as freely as possible
Check for understanding from principal or department head
Examples of  final product will be provided
Reduced faculty meeting or meetings of any sort
48 hours to respond to emails
Screened phone call from parents
Frequent positive feedback
Personal translator
Meditation coach
At least 30 minutes uninterrupted for IEP planning
No more than two preps
Reduced exposure to stressful situations
One task assigned at a time
Common planning periods with other teachers within your subject area

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Well hello again IEP

Me being the stubborn person that I am when it comes to my disability went a majority of my time throughout college accommodation less; until I had to take certification and exit exams and then I used my extended time as well as my calculator off of my accommodation list. Unfortunately, I needed to update my IEP because I let it expire once leaving high school. This brought me to the uncomfortable process of being re-evaluated for having a disability...I will never understand why anyone would lie about having a disability. Thankfully, the university I was attending paid for my re-eval otherwise I would of lost a couple hundred on this lovely process of updating my IEP.

 I have never had a more humbling experience than being re-evaluated for my disability in my younger twenties. I promise my psychologist was a mere five years older than me and she is asking me task after task that a fifth grader would breeze through. My favorite part was reading made up words and piecing together puzzles...least favorite was the mental math part or any thing regarding a math problem! I had to visit this lady a total of three separate times for her to re-evaluate me for having a disability.  When the process was complete I was hoping that I some how out grew my disability, but when the paper work was finally processed and sent to me the results were identical to all the other times I have been re-evaluated. Truth be told I do not like reading what was said about me in that report because I do not feel like it is a true representation of who I am so it sits in a file collecting dust.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Whose accommodations

As I glance across my room an automatic list forms of who gets what accommodation in this class. The list changes as a new class enters. How I implement the same accommodation to one student differs with another. Sometimes accommodations are provided and then rejected by the receiver. Accommodations can either advance or hinder a student's education. They can act as a crutch or a ladder. 
The fact of the matter is that once a majority of students are no longer in school their accommodations disappear. I have an IEP and have yet to receive any extended time for anything. Even when seeking higher education you still have to have an up to date IEP to receive services and you better pray you do not need a re-eval because that will cost you.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Substitute Plans

I try my best to avoid being absent from the classroom, but with IEPs and life itself substitute plans are bound to occur. I typically have all three grade levels read their novels with questions correlating to their chapter. This by far is the easiest plan for a sub to follow when I am absent for the day.
For IEPs when I am at school, but just not in my classroom I tend to continue what each grade level is learning. These plans are more involved and may include pictures and samples of what students will be completing. With every sub plan I create a Power Point that can be used for every class to help the sub and students understand what needs to be completed. 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

6 hours

I'm not one to dwell in a negative situation. Instead I choose to be thankful.

So today I am thankful for...
It being over
Being given an unmeasurable amount of patience and flexibility
Support that has been received
My wonderful students
Laughter
Not losing my S.S# during an IEP meeting
My friends
Having the burden removed
Fresh starts

Monday, January 13, 2014

Public service announcement

My lovely 8th graders are in the process of perfecting the art of writing persuasive essays. One of the two topics they were writing about dealt with allowing girls to play on the boys football team at school. Reading their persuasive essays are always entertaining due to their reasons they provide in their paper. For example, did you know that girls should not play football because it will lead them to developing breast cancer due to lack of padding!
When reading their essays I have two options to cry or to laugh. This young man's essay lead to automatic laughter. My para questioned his research and when I asked this student about his essay he instantly threw his hands in the air and said "I know" and covered his face as he walked away.