Monday, June 30, 2014

G is for Giving up my chair


Wow, this series is just flying by! Which means...summer is flying by as well.  I hope everyone is enjoying traveling, spending time with family and soaking up the sun!

Today I'll be talking about my teacher chair! I cross out 'my' because about mid year, a student declared (non-verbally of course) it was his chair.  This student enjoyed spinning and obviously my chair was the ideal choice to spin in.  Not to mention he could sneak a peak at the DVDs on the shelf, chew the erasers off my pencils and eat up VERY IMPORTANT sticky notes. (don't worry...I learned my lesson about leaving things where they are easy accessible).
Here is the chair just waiting for me on the first day back from summer.

After I acclimated to this child, let's call him 'Sir Spins A lot 1,' another student decided, "well that looks like fun!" Except, he was more reliant on someone else spinning him! This student enjoys music, which is convenient for him because if he sits in my chair, he can hear the music clearly without having to block out other classroom noises. This student we'll call, 'Sir Spins A lot 2.'

Once Sir Spins A lot 1 & 2 realized they both loved my chair...it became a balancing act to make them both happy for their break and sensory times.  I didn't mind my chair being held hostage by my students because I could use it as a reward and it kept me active in the classroom.  Then the desire for my chair spread to even more students! Almost every time I turned around a student wanted to sit in it, they wanted to sit next to me while I was in it and help me while I was working.  They wanted to even do their work at my desk! I can't so no to that! If they get their work done, I honestly don't care which desk they are sitting at.
Sir Spins A lot 1 & 2 in action! 
I ended up adding a yellow piece of tape around my desk and informed the room that my chair needed to stay behind the yellow tape, because they would go roller coaster crazy and take the chair for a joy ride around the room. By the end of the year, staff was even using the chair!

So let's be honest.  This chair isn't special.  It squeaks.  I am fairly certain it is lopsided and there is no telling how dirty it is, but under the maroon fabric you can't even tell.

After being booted out of my desk for three-fourths of the year, I have been thinking...do I really need a my teachers desk? Seriously, I would end up spending 20 minutes every day after school just cleaning the dang thing off from the stacks of papers and items that piled up on it. For example:
This mess is a little excessive. One kiddo was having a bad day and I was the bad guy. He threw, pushed, and moved every item in my area resulting in the picture above. Now to reorganize everything....

I just want to thank Sir spins a lot 1 and Sir Spins a lot 2 for leading me on this path of decision making:
To keep my teacher desk or dump it?

I have researched lots of teachers' opinions on this matter and it seems to be a split decision.  I could totally use the extra space and I can reorganize and relocate things to make a no-desk decision.  I just can't decide!! Here are some links I've used to research thus far:
I would love to hear your thoughts.  Have you thought of dumping your desk? If you've done it, what are some Pros & Cons? Would you go back to a desk?  I guess I don't need to make the decision any time soon, since school is over a month away, but I would still like some input!

This post is part of my summer series: ABCs of a first year teacher.  
View all posts from this series
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Friday, June 27, 2014

Getting Fit Friday

Getting fit Friday with Bunting, books & bright ideas

I'm joining up with Bunting, Books & Bright Ideas for a Getting Fit Friday Linky!

I am almost done with week 1 of 3 weeks no cheats with For Blogness Sake. I set up a few guidelines that have proven to be very difficult to follow! (I'm hoping week 2 will be easier.)  I decided to cut out bread, sugary drinks and sweets.
Follow my Instagram and join in #3weeksnocheats!


I honestly thought I would have the most difficulty with the sweets, but not being at school with a class full of kids has made this easier.  I'm having difficulty with the bread and sugary drinks.  I don't even drink that many sugary drinks-but when I want a Gatorade or a tea....I can't help but get the ones that are REALLY sweet. Here's what I did to help with my drink urges:
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/287737863664912487/

So far this lemon-lime water has done well.  It's very satisfying & refreshing-especially after a workout when I am craving a Gatorade!

I've also started using the 30 day fitness app.  Other than the fact I die a little every time I complete a daily workout, I have more energy and I feel more toned and I'm only 4 days in! The app is $2.99, but if you keep up with the workouts, it is worth the money, especially for the variety of workouts it provides.


Don't forget to share your Getting Fit Friday with Bunting, Books & Bright Ideas! Have a great weekend.

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F is for Flexibility


Today I will be talking about flexibility. I'm going to flashback to my student teaching to give you an easy mental image for flexibility. Does anyone know who Gumby is!? If you haven't heard of him, he was a very popular clay character on his own show that aired 1955-1962.

Gumby was chosen as our mascot for student teaching along with the slogan 'stay flexible and always smile.' He is a prime example of how we should stay flexible. 


Student teaching motto: Stay Flexible and always smile 
If you are a 1st year teacher, here's a heads up of what may require some flexibility: 
  • Early Release-if you have early release days in your district, be prepared for chaos. The schedules are wacky and nothing goes as you have planed. Just do your best to keep the kids busy and on task.  I have also found for some of my students, if I start talking about the schedules being a little different the week prior to the change-it helps them with the transition (slightly).
  • Be prepared for behaviors (especially after holidays).  Some students who didn't have any issues at the beginning of the year exhibited completely different behaviors after Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. I mean, can you blame them...I enjoyed my time off too. As one of my students put it, "This school stuff is really cutting into my nap time!"
  • Plan a little at a time. If you can, don't EVER save work for the last minute before a deadline.  Work on it a little at a time because there is always 4 or 5 other deadlines that admins people throw at you to get accomplished ASAP. Just smile as you accept the deadline, get it done and move on with your to-do list. 
  • Expect staff to be absent (without a substitute.) This happens more often than anyone wants, but the truth is-things happen. It's just a bummer when staff is out and you don't have a sub. If you do get a sub, don't remember THEY ARE A SUB. They visit different classrooms daily and work under different teachers. They will probably do things differently, unless you tell them otherwise.  Remember, be flexibly and show them how things are run in your classroom. (Don't forget to be grateful they picked up the job too!) 
  • Parents can be needy.  It's your decision to hand out your home or cell phone number...just remember-Parents can be needy.  I gave out my number and thankfully, my parents were respectful to my wishes of no contact after 7pm. Although, in the morning-I've had texts from 5:30am! (That's a little to early for me, but I just respond when I wake up). Some parents work and only have available time after school hours. If you're a teacher than can stay and meet with them after school-that may require some flexibility on your part. 
I'll leave you with this this quote below, just remember despite the insane circumstances-
you will get through it!



What scenarios as a teacher, have you been in that required flexibility? Are they similar to the ones I described? Share in the comments below! 



View all posts from this series! 

This post is part of my summer series, ABCs of a 1st year teacher. Thanks for reading and check back next week for the following posts: G is for giving up my chair, H is for Hello Sub!, I is for Independence and J is for Jokes.
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

E is for Emergency


Welcome to another post from my summer series.  Today's letter is E for Emergency!
There are several different types of emergencies and a variety of ways to handle them.  I'll be sharing some of the biggest emergencies I experienced my first year teaching and the ways to prepare and proceed during the emergency.

Common types of school emergencies:

  • Fire Drill / Bad weather drill / lock down, etc.
  • Substitutes 
  • Calling for an admin / campus police 
  • Contacting parents
How to plan and prepare for these emergencies can be overwhelming, but with some preparation, practice and different resources you have the ability to make these procedures run smoother. 

I don't know if this is normal, but for my first year of teaching - we had so many lock downs and fire drills by the end of the year my kiddos were actually pretty good at them.  That's saying a lot for students with disabilities who don't like schedule changes!  We had our regular fire drills, then our elevator began smoking-that set off the fire alarms and the fire dept. came.  We also had a student pull a fire drill.  At the beginning of the year a bank was robbed in our zip code and they locked down our middle school and high school.  Then we had a threatening letter to the district which called for a soft lock down. We also practice bad weather drills on top of all of this. I didn't do as much prep with my students as I should have my first year, but that's why I'm making these resources now-to better prepare for next year. 
  • How can you prep and proceed during a fire drill? 
    • Typically schools have drills monthly. We are required to keep certain items on a clipboard that we grab on our way out of the room.  I want to include visual rules on the clipboard such as 'no talking,' 'hands to yourself,' and 'wait.'
    • I will also prep a first/then board. You can download your own emergency visuals here!
Download from my TpT store
  • For students who have sensitive ears, you can have sound blocking headphones near the door/fire drill clipboard to grab on the way out to help with sensory overload. 
  • Substitutes can be another emergency all in its own category.  There can be an emergency with the teacher or staff member and a substitute fills in at the last minute.  Lessons and activities must be planned and prepared in case of an emergency.  
    • To keep (you-the teacher) from getting stressed during this situation, I created a SubTub where I store 3-5 lessons, visuals of my classroom, procedures and any other info the sub might need.  I also review the sub tub with my assistants so they can guide the sub if needed.   
  • Do you ever need to call for an Administrator / Campus Police? What if a student runs out of the room and you can't catch up to him so you end up loosing him in your line of site? What if a student is throwing every possible thing at you and your students, your short handed and you need assistance? These are 2 situations you might find yourself in if you deal with extreme behaviors. A few things schools might do to have an administrator or campus police available is: 
    • Have a call but in the classroom. A staff or student can push the button, the office comes on over the intercom and you request for an administrator.
    • Some departments have walkie talkies.  These are great-if the batteries are charged and you can actually get signal outside of your classroom.  In my case...the range didn't even reach outside of the classroom!
    • Most teachers have a classroom phone and an IM system set up in their school.  You can easily dial an extension or send an IM if you are looking for a campus authority figure. 
  • Contacting parents. If there was an emergency situation involving my students, I do my best to inform the parents of the situation and let them know their child could still feel anxious, agitated, nervous or tired.  You can inform the parents several different ways depending on their preferred method of communication.  Just this year alone I: 
    • emailed parents
    • wrote in a daily communication folder
    • texted them
    • called them
    • talked with them face-face
  • If the emergency is extreme, parent contact might be made by an administrator.  Be sure to check who will be contacting the parent so it doesn't fall through.  Also, it doesn't hurt to follow up with parent and make sure they understand the situation their student was in during the day. 
View more from this summer series!

This post is part of my summer series, The ABCs of a 1st year teacher. Check back tomorrow for the letter F.  I'll be talking about the importance of Flexibility.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Workin' on it & Wordless Wednesday

Link up your Wordless Wednesday post with Sugar & Spice! 
Anybody know what this is!? 
If you guessed a lightening bug (firefly) you are correct!! I saw a TON of them this weekend while I was back home.  A flood of childhood memories came rushing to mind.  What childhood memories do you have when you see a bug, animal, location or photo? Share in the comments below! 



Share your Workin' on it with Middle School Math Moments!
Share a Workin' on it post with KinderPals!

I'm workin' on some emergency drill visuals & social stories for my summer blog series post tomorrow! You can check out the visuals that are already up on my TpT store!
Emergency Drill Visuals on TpT

View my Emergency Drill Social Stories


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

D is for Data and Documentation



It's August 25, 2013 8:15a.m. Some students are arriving off the bus and others are coming into class with their parents!! PARENTS! I am not prepared to work with parents on my first day as a teacher. One assistant is pulling things out of the backpacks and trying to talk to me while I introduce myself to my first parent of the year. The mom is sharing a bunch of info with me -most of which I don't even remember 10 months later. I just knew if I didn't grab a sticky note, I was sure to forget everything she just spent time explaining.  I asked politely for her to pause while I grab a pen to jot the info down.  I wanted to make sure I remembered and accomplished everything the parent was asking and telling me.  After I wished her a good day, I turned my attention to 2 other parents, and I jotted down some more info on my sticky note. I placed the sticky note 'safely' on my desk and welcomed my new class of 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

By the end of this first day, I was exhausted. Can I just curl up in bed and sleep for ten hours (while getting a massage)?  Nope! That wasn't going to happen because as I look around my room, I notice more and more things out of place, especially the mess on my desk.  Then it hit me, where did that sticky note go!? Uh oh! I pray it's buried under all that stuff!

I didn't understand.  I barely even used my desk today, how could it be this disastrous!?  Where did all this stuff come from!? There were pens, pencils, random papers (from the students and the office), puzzle pieces, Velcro, file folder pieces, and some crumbs (which I believe came from a kiddos' graham cracker). Where should I start-the classroom or my desk? I decided to tackle the class first, I picked up and replaced all items where they should be then turned my attention to the mess on my desk. I slowly started to organize, stack and file things away praying I find that sticky note. About 20 minutes later, I could see my desk and a little sticky note that had gotten a little crumpled. Thank the Lord! It had survived. At that moment, I realized I need a better system for documenting conversations with parents.

I already send home student folders w/ a notebook for communicating, but I needed something to keep myself sane.  I remembered a Communication Log I created over the summer that would work perfectly for this! I printed them out and put them in a binder.  I made a sheet for each kiddo with a couple of pages of notebook paper behind each one to have extra writing space.
Download for free on my TpT store
This document became my main source of documentation to help me remember who I've contacted and why or who has contacted me.  The coolest part was in May I looked back at the beginning of the year and could see the rapport building between the parents and I.

Okay, enough on parent communication documentation. Let's talk about data collection and documentation. I still need some major practice in this area.  My 1st 9 weeks were a mess trying to teach and collect data on goals & objectives.  I tried many methods including: index card data collection, Evernote data collection, Google docs data collection , and using Google forms to collect data. The index card method seemed to confuse me because I couldn't even remember the goals off the top of my head and I tried to put a short bullet point about the goals/objectives on the card, but I still became confused.  Most of the other methods I tried were tied to electronics.  I don't know why I didn't realize this sooner but first off, I am hardly ever on anything electronic device during the day. Secondly, even if my data was loaded into Evernote or Google drive I still had to transfer it into our district data program which in my mind is double work.

Then around October I decided to use a blank data sheet I got from another teacher. I placed several copies of it  a 1" binder for each student.  The binder included their goals (printed from their IEP) and worksheets corresponding to the goals.   Each binder was placed in a box with tasks that also corresponded to their goals/objectives. The idea behind this setup was the staff member that was to work with the student would take the box, set up their station and work with the student if it was time for Direct Instruction or observe and collect data if it was time for Independent work. This worked well for most of the year, but I still have some adjustments to make to make it more efficient for next year. I have created this form in a word document for you to download for free!
Download on TpT

If you didn't want to include the goals/obj's from the student's IEP you can use an IEP overview sheet to show a snapshot of their education plan.
Download the IEP overview sheet

For behavior Data, I have a separate 1.5" binder that has a tab for each student and there are several copies of my ABC (behavior) chart.
Check out my editable ABC chart here

I have a few students who have seizures and other health issues and may attend the nurses' office regularly, I document that information on my Health Data form.
Download the Seizure & Nurse record forms on TpT

I want to collect more data during inclusion next year. I'll place the form on a clipboard for the assistants to grab on the way out.  You can find how to collect inclusion data at TheAutismHelper.com.  Sasha has some amazing forms on TpT!
View more posts from this series!

This post is part of my summer series, "ABCs of a 1st year teacher." Check back on Thursday for the letter E! I'll be posting about Emergencies.


Friday, June 20, 2014

C is for communication and conversation



Conversation & Communication.

These are two very important words in the world of teaching and more importantly in special education. How do you get a kiddo to converse and communicate when they have limited or no verbal skills? Let me start of by saying, the students will let you know when they want to communicate, typically it's something they want or need. They may show it through behavior or an attempt to verbalize or communication through pictures and sign language.  It's your job as an educator to expand their communication and conversation skills and topics beyond what they WANT to talk about and to whom they want to talk to.

Here is a little story about one of my most troublesome kiddos this year. My student is capable of communicating on his own, although he typically let his anger get the best of him and all communication and conversation opportunities would be thrown out of the window (literally). He threw things at the windows, tried to crawl out of the window, hurt himself and others, the list can go on. Through LOTS modifications, accommodations, different approaches and many restless nights trying to figure my student out, I remembered a tip an assistant gave me at the beginning of the year. She said to give this student five. This meant he could tell you 5 things. I could be anything he wanted.  The only issue I had with this was he just seemed to take FOREVER in telling me 5 things. Who has the time for that? I have data to collect, lessons to teach, meetings to attend and a classroom to run. Then I tried the 'give me 5.'

Yep, I tried it. Right in the middle of my student trying to jump of the stair case.  I said, "you know, I have no idea what's going on. I haven't heard your side of the story. I have a timer here and we've got 15 minutes, can you tell me 5 things.  It can be anything. I can be about why your mad, who your mad at, your dinner last night, your brother or even your favorite movie." Then he started talking. Before the end of the 15 minutes, he had told me 5 very detailed things AND we got to the bottom of why he was mad. I wasn't even expecting learn about the incident, but he felt independent in sharing his side of the story! This was also a good time to address the unacceptable 8th grade behavior and come to an agreement try to turn our day around. Every incident after this, I typically gave him wait time and told him, when you're ready to communicate with me, we can figure this out by talking. Then I would remind him, he can tell me any 5 things.  He would just start talking away! I sat quietly and listened.

This is just one kiddo and one incident. I'm not saying this will work on every student, but it might work on a few and hopefully save your sanity along the way.  I honestly don't think I could have figured this out without the help from the assistant and my fiance' reminding me that communication is VITAL for every person. Conversations need to happen in a variety of situations and scenarios and the students need to be able to discuss topics that aren't always of high interest to them personally.

A few other things I want to try for my students who struggle with communication & conversation:

This post is part of my summer series, "ABC's of a 1st year teacher." I hope you found today's post helpful & inspiring. Check back next week for the next letter, D! I'll be talking about Data & Documentation. 

Read more from this summer series! 


Summer To do list

Hello! I'm wide awake, so I thought I would post a quick blog post. :) I'm linking up with Lessons with coffee to share my summer to do list!


I will do my best to include non work(school) related to-do's, but who am I kidding...I cannot stop thinking about next year!!!

Personal To-Do:

  • Workout Daily - So far it's been about every 5 days then I need a break. I will get their eventually. I have added the goal of running 250miles before the end of the summer (that's a LOT of miles considering I don't like running). I've completed 3.7mi this week! I use http://runkeeper.com/ to track my running and any other additional workouts. You should check it out because it's free, it has workout routines, and functions using GPS! :) 
  • Create something every week!! I am addicted to all things crafty! I want to take a picture, sew, crochet, practice calligraphy, crochet something, or make a card once a week for the summer. 
  • Get some sun. Everyone needs some Vitamin D in their life and between camping, the river, pool & six flags-I hoping to lighten this dirty blonde and MAYBE get a tan. 

School To-Do:
  • Purchase this amazing groovy-green pencil sharpener!  I have read so many reviews by other teacher bloggers about the great value of these sharpeners, I will be getting one this year! 
  • Create 2 items for my classroom each week. I am planning to spread out my school to-do over the summer instead of wait until the last minute and be stressed. A few things I have on my school to-do include: 
    • Create an easier way to communicate between home & school
    • Make portfolio binders that include: goals, data sheets, work samples, assessments. I want these to be available & updated frequently to take to the ARD meetings.
    • Decide if I want to tweak my classroom management plan or scrap it & make a new one
    • Plan my morning routine (with visuals) 
    • Set up visuals for transitions & class routines from The Autism Helper
      Read about Sasha's visuals and Download them on TpT
    • Make a ring of websites for students to use when on computers 
      Get a free download
    • Make a ring of student logins
      Read all about Elementary Organization's Login Cards
    • Create more file folders
    • Check sub-tub & update 
    • Define area to display student work
    • Designate a place to turn in student work
    • Lesson Plans
    • Create schedules (picture, check list, mini) for students
    • Make staff schedules
    • Make a better system for collecting data & get assistants involved! 
    • Tweak lining up procedures
    • Make a fluency & writing station (inspired by The Autism Helper) 
       Download Sasha's Fluency Mega Pack
      Download Sasha's Fluency Mega Pack
Download Sasha's Writing Center