Friday, December 14, 2012


I had my preliminary evaluation today. I passed. Lots of complimentary things written on my eval. I'm halfway through with "teacher residency" at this point. My littles all had great days, too. Even my smallest little, who's been having to push through some things that have been affecting him at school, did amazingly.

I returned home happily, only to open my Reeder app and see the horrible news. So many families who won't see their loved ones tonight. A school devastated by the loss of twenty-six (last I saw) of their own. Such unimaginable violence.

I was disgusted, enraged at the story on CNN. How could someone do this? How could this happen?

When my family was driving back from buying our Christmas tree, my work e-mail dinged on my phone. Scholastic News had sent articles and tips for processing this event with students. Reading the article meant for students, I cried. I imagined my littles, who only on Monday crouched under a table in a dark room during our lock down drill. They were terrified, even with the assurance that we were practicing.

Reading the news and watching the television brings me through the what-if's. I'm sorely tempted not to use the school mandated "safe wall" during the next drill. If there was really an active shooter, I'm not putting my littles under a table in a room with windows on most sides. My minions are small, and there are few of them. Our bathroom is huge.

In January, we will have a new focus on locking the door behind us when we go to the bathroom. So, just in case I ever have to tell my littles to lock themselves in the bathroom, they would know what to do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

i miss my word wall (and other improbable utterances)

I think that using "slack" as an adjective at this point would be a gross understatement.
I'm here. It's been chill in my neck of the woods, kiddo-wise, until this week. Someone came back from Thanksgiving break with a major issue, but we're . . . adjusting. I have t-minus 6 observable days in my observation cycle and NO ONE has come to observe. No one.
But here's a few updates. . .
One: When I was small, I hated the word wall in my classroom. It was evil. Imagine you are a gifted seven year old who learned to read whole-language style. You read on an eighth grade level, but can't really spell. Your teacher's brilliant solution: use the word wall! The word wall that you cannot see, because you are severely visually impaired. Even if you stood right at the wall, you still can't read most of the words. . . not that it matters, though, since you're not allowed to leave your seat. Because your teacher does not comprehend that you cannot see. You're young, of course you can see! She's "old" and has bifocals, and she can still see the words!
(Just to note, I've worn bifocals/progressives for quite a while and I can't even pass for mid-twenties most days. I have no idea why people persist in the ridiculous idea that young people have "good eyes.")
Our word wall was unceremoniously ripped down this year. Good riddance, I thought. . . but I miss it. Miss, miss, miss it. I want it back, but I really don't have enough wall space now. Hmmmm.
Two: Normally, I pride myself on being stim-friendly. My class is mostly kids with emotional disabilities, but I also have some HFA/Aspergers littles. Which is actually my fave, because I'm usually down with their worldview. They speak my language, where as sometimes I have to decode and translate what my ED littles are trying to tell me. But, yeah. Normally, let's stim away.
I mean, unless it's super inappropriate.
But bring on the flapping.
(One of my ED kids the other day: "miss, why do you do that with your fingers all the time?" Oops. Caught.)
I'm all anti-quiet-hands and let's-just-fake-eye-contact-if-absolutely-needed. But one of my littles is driving me up the wall. He does not stop moving. And if he worked while he did it, I would not care. Spin yourself silly all you want, if you can still get your work done. But it doesn't help him focus. All the interventions I've tried, all the OT's suggestions . . . Nothing.
And as much as I want to continue not fighting the stimming battle, except with the occasional replacement behavior, I am seriously tempted to just- stop. Sit. Do not get up until that next movement break. Stop spinning your erasers. Do not walk like that.
And then I feel conflicted. Because on one hand, I said I'd never do that. My first grade teacher got me to stop walking like that by shaming me in the hallway daily until I stopped. My mom texted me about a billion times before my job interview to remind me to at least look like I was making eye contact. My friend the ex-ABA therapist nearly slapped my hands down in a store a few weeks ago. "Are you waving to someone? Quit!" I won't do that to a kid.
But am I really helping this kid by not insisting on sitting properly to work? At this point, I think no.
My other littles, who happily expound on their special interests and fidget and flap as they diligently work, don't get any redirection from me when they get stimmy. But as much as I'll wave my neurodiversity flag high and promote Austin acceptance, am I doing right by them? By not insisting on complete conformity, am I preparing my littles for the world that I wish existed, rather than the one that is really out there?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

the real teacher

I got observed today.

If you knew me in real life, or if you can imagine how year two as a teacher would be for me based on how teacher licensure goes in your state, you might think I meant by an official evaluator. Or someone from administration. Or from the state department. Or whatever.


Today, I had a student observing. A student. From our friendly local SEC member university. (Have I outed my location yet?) It kind of blew me away, especially considering they asked me in particular.

Being on my own in a classroom last year as the "real teacher" was weird enough, but it was surreal to be the one being watched. (And not as the "what not to do" example!) The girl that observed was very complimentary and said she couldn't believe it was only my second year.

Yes, I'm bragging. Sorry.

Monday, September 3, 2012

best laid plans

I had these great ideas about how my literacy block would go. Different mini-lessons, many times to pull individuals for extra help, a well-oiled machine of daily-5-ness.

I took one look at our master schedule, which lays out what subject each grade is doing when, and threw that idea out the window. I don't have a literacy block. It's more like . . . literacy slivers. It's all broken up. And, if you recall, I have K-3 this year (because the universe hates me.) This is requiring a ton of juggling.

Still, we are trudging on. We've launched Read to Self and Read to Someone. I had planned to introduce Listen to Reading next week, but some supply chain issues (aka the closest branch of our public library has unexpectedly closed) may make Work on Words our next choice.

We're up to fifteen minutes of Read to Self with my first and second graders, and ten with my third graders. My first and second graders can also do Read to Someone for fifteen minutes. My third graders won't try it, because they refuse to work with each other. (This may be for the best, so I haven't pushed it.)

While we introduced/reviewed Read to Self, I showed off my new library labels. They aren't very fancy, and are kind of in version 1.0 state, but so far they have kept our books organized. Yay!!!

I can't share them with you, because they're from boardmaker, but all I did was use the 1 inch and 2 inch templates. And, yes, I have a whole basket in my room dedicated to following the rules. Welcome to ED resource.

If you look behind my chair in our group area, you can see some of the anchor charts we've done so far. My huge question to you is this: how do you write so neatly on your charts while still keeping up the pace of instruction? I feel like my handwriting is pretty nice, but it goes to crap as I try to keep moving and keep my kids engaged when making charts or doing interactive writing. It's kind of embarrassing. I ended up printing out parts of one chart, which worked alright, but isn't always going to be feasible. I might re-write them later, after we're done introducing Daily 5, but for now I want the originals up.

We're also off and running on CAFE, too. I feel like some of my kids are totally space out during small group, while others are completely on it. We've reviewed listening skills, amd my spaced out kids can look like they're listening, but they are so not with us. I need to keep working on that. Here's our CAFE board, although we've added more strategies now.


For my kids who are "with it" during group, they are so much more with it since I've incorporated some Whole Brain teaching tricks into our lessons. So far, we're mostly just using class/yes, gestures, and the occasional scoreboard. I've also tried to be more conscious about giving more frequent opportunities to respond.

One thing I haven't done yet is the WBT rules. I think I am most nervous about those, because we are a PBIS school. While the WBT rules jive with our expectations matrix, I don't want to be a hypocrite because I'm one of those ones who gets annoyed with people who aren't supportive of our transition to PBIS. Even if you don't like it (which I have research on why you should, but anyway,) it's kind of like the Common Core: our district is adopting it, like it or not. So, I have my expectations matrix posted. I may wait on class rules. Maybe.

As far as posting expectations, I've also decided to post our learning objectives in our room where everyone can see. I'm not sure how much this will help my younger/lower students, since I haven't put any pictures with it, but it will help remind me what we're doing (especially once we get farther into the year and I have three sets of group lessons per subject) without referencing my lesson plans and will also let observers (this year is my evaluation year) know what we're doing. Here's how I've done it so far:

Finally, look at this cool piece of construction that's sprung up in our yard:


Friday, August 24, 2012

the big reveal

Oh my word, we are off and running. Although mostly not literally. The stench of chlorine offends one of my littles with autism. Some of my small people are . . . not so small anymore. My schedule is erratic, at best; people are constantly in and out. I had a phone thrown at my head. One little came back to school a different child (in a good way.) The lids to Nalgene bottles will shatter. I now need to add birds to the many esoteric subjects I'm supposed to be an expert on. I'm exhausted, but it's been pretty good so far.

Here's my classroom. It's mostly done now, considering we're already in session. Sorry about the quality, I haven't taken my good camera to school in a while.

The view from the door.

Our counter with writing supplies, word wall, clip chart, cabinets, and CAFE board. I'm putting seasonal boxes on top of our cabinets, but I'm still working on it.

A close-up of our CAFE signs.

One of our group areas. This area is mostly for reading/writing "whole group," as we do math "whole group" on the SMARTboard. (I feel a little weird that my whole group is usually 4 or less, hence the quotation marks.)


Magnet center, post office, and clip boards.

View of one of the work spaces. The kidney table will also be used for individual or pair reading instruction. You can also see our listening center, cubbies, and my wingman's desk.

My awesome new document camera!

My lovely schedule. . .

I'm pretty happy with the way my room turned out, and I think it's very functional and not just cutesy. I know there are some other changes I would like to make, but that aren't practical with my particular class.

I hope everyone is having a great start to their year!


Monday, August 20, 2012

must have . . . sleep?

Kicking off Teacher Week today is Must Have Monday. I've been kind of busy and slack with the blog lately, but I'd figured I'd pop in. Mostly because tomorrow is day 1 and I am terrified. Only not as much as last year. And I'm more prepared this year, but not as well as I'd like. Ho hum.

So, a quick list of my must-haves.

(a very quick list, because I was awake for masters swimming at 4:45 this morning and I'm about to crash.)

1. Starbucks. Or maybe a iced vanilla coffee K Cup, if I'm feeling broke. But, I need coffee. I am absolutely positive I wouldn't have graduated without it. And I probably wouldn't have a job without it. Cofffffffeeeeee. A coworker called me Friday morning before school to ask me what she should order at Starbucks. Yes.


2. Books. Lots of books for the littles and for me. I need more informational texts in my classroom library. For reals. I got my supply allotment money, and I'm considering getting the D-I leveled math/social studies/science readers. Also, my nook needs more books, but that has nothing to do with my supply allotment.


3. Paper. Oh goodness, they finally started limiting copies at my school. I'm not usually prone to such hyperbole, but I actually remarked to a coworker today that I felt like I was in hell. The temperature didn't help, though, so it might not have just been the paper limits. I made 45 copies total of behavior sheets for 3/4's of my babies before I ran out. Sheesh.

4. My blackbook. It is lovely. It is greatly superior to my work computer, too. Sorry, windows.

5. A wingman to back me up. This is not essential, as I've proven this can be done sans assistant, but it's a must-have for my sanity. For reals.

Yeah, so the littles arrive tomorrow and my room looks like a wreck. It's a little better/worse than the pictures I'm going to show below, but I'm coming early tomorrow to give it some extra TLC.


Thursday, August 2, 2012


When I left my classroom at the end of May, everything was packed up and it all looked very empty and lonely. I went back this week to start unpacking and organizing my room. We don't have to go back to work for a while yet, but I know I have a lot of planning to do this year before we get started. I want to do all the decorating and stuff before we have to be back at work. I'll do my planning then, because I will get my teacher manuals checked back out to me. Also, I think our general education classes are getting a new reading series this year (or next year, they already picked out Literacy by Design.) I really want to see the materials for that when I'm planning out everything, so hopefully there are a few extra copies of things.

Anyway, I lugged a bunch of stuff down with me. I think I have a school supply problem. This is not all of what I purchased for my room so far. Nor is it even all of the glue sticks.

Sorry for the bad quality on the second one. I bought a ton of Dots on Turquoise stuff. I really want my room to look nice and neat, but I'm also super opposed to commercially-made bulletin board sets and posters. I thought that maybe I could put the anchor charts that the littles complete onto the posters, and I have a few other ideas. Anyway. Lots of stuff. I think all of my money from my second job went back into my first one. Oh well.

And here's what I amused myself with as I worked on my classroom:

Yes, I watched Tuesday morning prelims on my SmartBoard. Then watched women's gymnastics live. I would have watched finals live, too, but my sister was with me and we had to leave before 2:30.

This is my new word wall. It is super-messy. I do not understand how all of you ladies are so good at cutting straight lines and aligning things. It is obviously not a talent of mine. Or a talent of my sisters. I'm kind of worried about how this turned out, and having enough room for all the words. And applying words without tearing up the paper. I'm going to change the sign out, too; it looks way too small.

I have a lot more work to do, but this is what my classroom looks like now:

Yes. A wreck. It's a process. Hopefully it will start coming together soon. I'm not going back until next week, so in the meantime I'm going to work on making some things for my class on the computer. I thought that my computer was on it's way out, as the trackpad was not working consistently and the replacement cost was going to be enormous. Considering that my macbook is old enough that I can't upgrade to OSX mountain lion, I was planning to buy a new one during tax-free weekend. I was conflicted, though. I love my computer. Also, I am not made of money.

Then, I noticed my computer no longer was sitting very flat on the table. I turned it over, and the battery was bulging out of the computer. Yikes! Since the battery is under the trackpad, I was wondering if maybe this was the source of my problems.

So now I have a new battery and my computer is working much better. (Yes, I have a blackbook. It's amazing.) So, no new computer this August. I'm okay with that.