During my first year of teaching, I worked with a veteran teacher who knew the school and the students very well. She ran a tight classroom and was constantly figuring out interesting ways to engage students in learning. She was open to my suggestions (and I did make many), but, for the most part, she made my job much easier because she was always thinking about different kinds and levels of learners. I like to think we learned from each other but, more accurately, I benefitted a lot from seeing her classroom on a day-to-day basis.
Tips, Tricks, and Lists
Keeping paperwork organized is probably the biggest headache I have as a new teacher. In talking to many other teachers, experienced and new, I know I am not alone in the deluge of paperwork. I have been working on a system of practical ways to keep things organized and have found what I think is a pretty manageable system.
Of course, everyone is different, and I am continually tweaking my own system. Maybe something that I do will be helpful to you or get you thinking about an area you need a plan for that you have not thought of already.
In a classroom full of boys there are bound to be times when things are somewhat hectic, chaotic and downright ugly. In my classroom, we label such times as Meltdown Level Events or MLEs. We take these events very seriously and even though these events sometimes happen rather unexpectedly, we are always on high alert and well prepared.
When I was first hired for my position last February, I took some time to do some observations. I really had no idea what the staff was talking about when they informed me that my student frequently engaged in rage-filled shouting episodes that would make Sam Kinison seem rather weak by comparison. Then I experienced a MLE. It is truly a sight to behold. I have heard this child scream himself hoarse. It is brutal for the child to experience; it is painful to witness and even worse when one of his meltdowns is aimed at you.
There are many good uses for technology in all classrooms.
Studies have shown it increases engagement and improves online literacy. In addition to teaching students
necessary skills for their future academic, professional, and social lives,
technology, when used purposefully and appropriately, can be a powerful tool
for differentiation. Here are a few ways I use technology in my ICT ELA
In my ICT classroom, I have several students with speech and
language disabilities who have difficulty keeping up during verbal discussions.
When I would conduct Socratic seminars, these students were often unable to
participate. This year, my co-teacher and I hosted an online discussion using www.Edmodo.com. We posted leveled question
(beginning with recall and moving argument and analysis) and students had 10
minutes to respond using a quotation from the text to support their answers.
The responses are in real time, so as soon as a student posts it is immediately
available to everyone. This allows students with expressive or receptive
language disorders to work through the questions and answers at their own pace.
Students who finish the question quickly can post their own question or respond
to a classmate.
As special educators we are constantly finding ourselves in
co-teaching relationships, whether it is with Instructional Aides in our own
classroom or with general education teachers in their classrooms. Co-teaching
is great for the students. It improves our teaching, pushes us to think beyond
our own opinions, allows us to get two sets of eyes on a student's progress,
gives us someone to bounce ideas off of, and helps manage behavior. The
benefits of co-teaching go on and on. I love it and prefer co-teaching to
working in isolation. That doesn't mean it isn't hard.
The problem is that no one tells us it is going to be hard. In
about October you start to think you are doing something wrong because it IS
hard and nobody warned you. Aren't you supposed to have that idyllic
co-teaching relationship your professors told you about?
No, really. I’m Texan but not that Texan. But I do say howdy here
and there and y’all really is a real word, and I am terribly excited to have
the opportunity to be part of Reality 101 this year!
To share a
little bit of background on myself getting into teaching…
When I was
applying for teaching positions, I had my heart set on a PPCD unit. I adore
working with little ones. After applying to 30+ positions in the area, I was
called for one interview and offered one position. I was hired to open a new
class that they were calling the 12+ Class (now 18+ Program). It would be
solely for students ages 18-22. Can you say “opposites”?
say, everything happens for a reason. I now adore and have become very
passionate about working with my 18+ Program students. I very quickly realized
that many of these parents and students had no idea what they will do after
their student aged out of public school. So my left-brained, problem solving
personality revved up and started to try to fix it.
She looked at me and innocently asked, “What are we going to
learn about in February?”
“How am I supposed to know?” I answered. “It's only November.”
She laughed as I glanced down at my watch and realized it’s
the third week of school. We haven't even hit the end of September yet.
Sometimes I sit back and wonder if those first few weeks of
school ever get easier. As a first year teacher, I was so unprepared and unsure
of what I was about to face. Now, as a third year teacher, I still find the
transition to waking up before the crack of dawn and being on my feet all day
to be a tough one. As an added bonus, I find myself teaching three different
courses this year: U.S. history, 9th grade English and 11th
grade English. As my Freudian slip reveals, it has been a long first few weeks.
I love lists. I make
them for tons of reasons, and, yes, I am one of those people who add things
that I’ve already done just to cross them off. Recently, I was reflecting back
on my past two and half years of teaching and an interesting list started to
come together in my mind.
There have been many
things over the past couple of years that I never dreamed I would be doing,
hence, my “Top Five Things I NEVER Thought I Would Do as a Special Ed Teacher”
I am not a morning person by any stretch. I have been a night owl for
as long as I can remember. In college I could do all-nighters regularly, but
waking up for an 8 a.m. class was impossible. My morning routine often
consisted of staying in bed until the absolute last possible minute, rushing
through the shower, throwing on the first outfit I came across and running out
the door to get to work on time. I’m never late, but it certainly wasn’t a
foundation built for a successful day.
I recently read an e-book by Laura Vanderkam called What the Most
Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your
Mornings—and Life. The book was extremely helpful for me, and I highly
recommend it if you are unsatisfied with your hectic morning routine. In the
book she suggests three things that should be done before the rest of the world
is awake: nurturing your career, nurturing your relationships and nurturing
yourself. I have applied these three categories to my morning routine and have
found them to be very beneficial.
The class was composed mostly of very young prospective
teachers. And, on top of that, most were general education majors, with only
one special education major.
We began the evening easily enough with a brief introduction
and a plug for Reality101. Then we watched a short DVD of a woman named Sue
Rubin and her compelling story told in Autism is a World. After that
we spent about 20 minutes discussing the professor’s notes about autism
spectrum disorders (ASD)—the briefest of introductions to be sure, but enough
to pique the interest of the students and whet their appetites for something
bigger and better.