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!

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
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.

Friday, January 10, 2014

For the love of books

Over Christmas break my family took a day trip out of town. This trip entailed visiting a bookstore and not your run of the mill book store, but one you could actually get lost in. This little gem includes rooms of books from every sort of genre and to top it off this bookstore has cats! 
From a young age my mother instilled the love of books. Instead of receiving legitimate presents during our birthday parties my mother requested that those in attendance give us books. We were also given books during major holidays. I have proof of me receiving a dictionary for Christmas in fourth grade. Weekly visits to our local library was always on our agenda and nightly readings in our beds was a frequent occurrence. Summers were spent adding to our list of books we have read and any book that was made into a movie was devoured. I love books and what they possess within their pages.
I was not much of an adventurous child. I did however go on several adventures that came alive from reading books. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Original thought

Do you hear that
The horrible sound of crickets right after students realized they have to come up with something
They have not been asked to summarize
Or answer a question found within the text
Or explain why a character did something
They had to develop their own original thought

Thanks to common core students will be given more opportunities to develop their own thinking as well as use critical thinking skills. Which is completely foreign to some students that have grown up taking standardized states tests.
Original thought is hard to come by now a days especially in the land of ESE
I call this phenomena original thought syndrome
Possible signs that students could be suffering from OTS
Blank stares
Looks of confusion
Asking questions you have already answered
Deer in the head lights 
Playing with their hair until it stands up
Tapping their pencil repeatedly on their desk

OTS can be overcomed, but it will take time and hard work both from the teacher and student.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Writing wall

We are officially in month five of writing essays with my 8th grades. They are on essay eight and Christmas gift to them was assigning two essays over break...they were thrilled! I told them not to complain because I was the one grading them.
  For every essay they are required to write each essay three times (rough draft, revise and edit and final copy). For the rough draft and revise portion I edit and make suggestions and then they improve upon their essay. In years past I have just stuck students finished essays in a file folder and called it a day. This year I decided to turn their hard work into decoration. 
They each have a clip board where they display their final copy of their essays. Their name is hanging off the top of the clip board. It's a great way to see who has done which essay and who has not! I have two students that have yet to produce a final copy of an essay!!!The rough drafts, revise and edits are kept in a crate in individual files.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Ice breakers

I recently came across a list that suggested certain qualities of an introvert. As I read down the list I identified with every single one mentioned. Whether it be attending a concert or participating in ice breakers. In which case I tend to avoid concerts and loathe any type of ice breaker. I always dread award ceremonies at school as well as the inevitable beginning of the year teacher ice breaker. Truth be told the majority of the friends I have are due to them forcing themselves into my life in which case I am grateful for. One of my New Years "resolution" for 2013 was to be less sarcastic and if you actually know me you realize this didn't 100% happen...although I did keep some of my opinions to myself...I did not make this same resolution in 2014. 
Over the summer I began to read Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I have yet to finish reading it...something about school taking up too much of my time...I am somewhat certain that we are related. First of all she despise ice breakers as much as I do. I can guarantee you that if I am forced to participate in any sort of ice breaker there will be a sarcastic comment coming out of my mouth that will offend an extrovert who happens to love this horrifying game. I think their should be some sort of age limit when it comes to ice breakers. I mean do we really need to force people to "get to know one another" we are adults after all...if I want to know you I will in time talk to you. 

Christmas break is coming to a close therefore the amount of people I see and have to interact with will increase a great deal. Thankfully, I love my students. I however am not looking forward to going back to a windowless classroom.

Why in the world would any classroom lack windows??

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

An unlikely gift

Whenever Christmas time rolls around students start asking what I would like. My reply has always consisted of something, something flying unicorn, glittered singing unicorn, purple talking unicorn and so on. I do this because I know the likelihood of them actually producing a gift is slim and I am 83% sure I will not like what they give me.
 I know, I know it's the thought that counts.
Well,  this past Christmas I received the best gift ever from a student...pure sarcasm!
Let me give you some background information on this student. He is unlike any other. I am his case manager. He is curious about how to make it as a male model. He owns stock in chewing gum. 

One of our school policies, like all other schools across the country, is not to chew gum.
Apparently, this message has fallen on deaf ears by this lovely student because he is given a citation each class period for gum. Sometimes he gets rid of one piece, is given a citation, puts in another piece of gum which is then followed with a second citation. He has more than once offered me gum and his locker can be identified by the minty smell coming out of it. There has been times were I have held a citation over his head for having gum...If you complete your work quietly, you can keep your gum and the citation will go away
 Don't judge
Being an ESE teacher you have to work with what you have.

On the last day before break he walked through my door and shoved this package at me and grunted a Merry Christmas. After the bell had rang I opened this cleverly wrapped gift to discover two brand new packs of gum!

If a student actually would give me a unicorn I am almost positive that would guarantee them an A in the class....I actually do not care for unicorns I just know they are not easy to come by.