After talking to so many people at the CEC 2011 Convention & Expo, I thought I would compile a list of the most frequently asked questions about being a Reality 101 blogger and a new special educator.
I really enjoyed meeting and sharing the blog with everyone at the convention. I hope this is somewhat informative. :o)
What do you wish you would have learned in college that you didn’t?
When I finally had my first classroom, I felt like I knew enough about teaching to successfully get started. It’s the non-teaching stuff that I had never thought about before that caused the most issues. :o)
For example, I would have liked more instruction on working with general educators who did not have a positive attitude about being involved with special education. I think that was the hardest thing for me. I also would have liked to see IEPs from states other than one where I went to school. I started teaching in a neighboring state, and the IEP looked a lot different from the ones I completed in college.
The other stuff was more school-specific: I had no idea how to maneuver the lunch line. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do when I had bus duty. I didn’t know how to pick up line #2 on the phone.
How do you manage paraprofessionals who are older than you, or who think you should do things differently?
I’ve been very lucky in this area. I can point and grunt to my paraprofessional and he immediately knows what I want him to do, and most of the time he’s already on his way to doing it (Mr. C., if you’re reading this, you rock!).
If this isn’t the situation in your classroom, I would suggest writing a guide that states your classroom rules and expectations. Create an atmosphere where all the adults in the room are equal members of the team, with final decisions ultimately up to you, the lead teacher. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but while you (and your students) respect your paraprofessionals, the buck needs to stop somewhere, and that needs to be with the classroom teacher.
What is your advice for finding a special education teaching position?
Network! Tell EVERYONE you know or meet that you are looking for a position. E-mail people you only sort of know from that meeting you attended a year ago. I’m not kidding you — I heard about my job through my best friend’s mom’s former co-worker. I was hired roughly three days after first learning about the position!
Did you find out about your job for next year?
Yes! I get to keep it! The board voted to keep all the special education teachers who had been hired with ARRA stimulus money. So not only do I get to stay, but other very important people, like our assistive technology rock star and our amazing autism specialist, get to stay, too! Yay!!!
What blogs do you read?
I read two blogs on a regular basis, neither of which have anything to do with education. Both are purely for comic relief; a really good laugh at the end of a long day is priceless! They are “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh (www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com) and “Stuff Christians Like” by Jon Acuff (www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike).
What are the rest of the “16 Things on a Stick”?
● Twitter.com (if you want to follow me, I’m missmissu)
● Skype.com (hint: use Skype to broadcast a general ed class in a self-contained setting if the big class makes your student uncomfortable)
● Google Earth (check out Google Lit Trips for a visual trip through books such as Night by Elie Wiesel)
● Discovery United Streaming (this is a service my school subscribes to that provides thousands of streaming videos for classroom use)
● Learn 360 (subscription service very similar to United Streaming, just a different variety of videos)
● Fotoflexer.com (free online photo editing)
● Glogster.com (online poster maker – great for visual learners)
● Google Tools (in the lower left side of a Google search)
● iSeek.com (search engine that can be limited to credible educational sources)
● Newseum.com (updated daily to show the front page of 100 newspapers from around the world)
● Search-cube.com (visual search engine)
● Seesmic.com (shows different strands in Twitter all at the same time)
● Tinyurl.com (shortens long Web site names)
● Wolframalpha.com (very cool search engine — you must play with this one!)
Do you write anything else?
I must say this was the most flattering question I’ve been asked! (Insert blush here.) I’ve had three articles published in a local magazine called On the Minds of Moms. I wrote “Love Story,” “Mommy Math,” and “Grass Greener;” and they can be found at www.onthemindsofmoms.com/woym.
Are you going to keep blogging after your Reality 101 term is over?
I really hope so! I have loved-loved-loved blogging this school year. Like I said at the Student Forum, writing is my free therapy. A few of us tossed around the idea of starting a Reality 201 (hint, hint, CEC!). Whether or not I have an audience, writing will always be a part of my life.
Thanks to all of you who have read our blog. It’s so fun to read the comments you leave. I know each of you is so very busy, so my thanks again for taking a few minutes to read my thoughts. It really means a lot to me. :o)