Reality 101 is currently on hiatus while we work on some updates. Stay tuned for new-and-improved content for new special educators by new special educators. In the meantime, we'll be checking in with some of our former bloggers from time to time. We hope you enjoy seeing some familiar faces. Thanks for reading Reality 101!
Yep. That’s right. An addict.
I am addicted to professional conferences.
I recently attended the regional music therapy conference in Addison, Texas.
Three days of glorious time spent with others who are passionate about what I am passionate about, speak the language that I speak, and absolutely just love and believe in music the way that I love and believe in music.
If you’ve never been to a professional conference, I highly recommend it! It is an invaluable experience for networking, rejuvenating passion, exploring new ideas, incorporating research-based best practices, and just getting away from life for a couple of days!
I’ve attended regional and national music therapy conferences since college. I went to a transition and Vocational Adjustment Coordinator (VAC) conference a couple of summers ago. Then last year was my first CEC convention.
There are so many other opportunities and conferences out there that I can’t begin to compile a list of options but I would very strongly encourage you to look into it for yourself. But beware: It may become habit-forming.
Last week, one of my students brought a knife to school. It was a small pocketknife and he managed to keep it hidden for most of the day. I only found out about it because another student approached me after lunch and told me that the boy had been showing it off earlier in the day.
When things like this happen in the classroom, it is your job to react calmly, but you have to react immediately. I took the student out in the hall and began questioning him.
I knew it was important to get to the truth, but I did not want to spook him. I am not a scary person, but I did not want to make him deny things unnecessarily. I first told him that it was very important that he be honest with me. I remained very even-tempered.
Did you bring something dangerous to school today? Are you carrying something in your pocket that you should not have at school? Do you have a knife at school?
The truth is that he was as calm as I was. The truth is that he lied right to my face.
We, as special educators, are consistently dealing with students who have been told they’re wrong, and they’re behind. They often get teased by other students. Many have struggled in school since the beginning, watching others learn to read, or write, or multiply, as they themselves struggled to master these skills. As a teacher who works in the inner city, my students also consistently see those around them, and those who look like them, fail. Many go home to unstable environments.
Because of this, I have always worked to create an accepting and positive atmosphere in my classroom. This year, I have succeeded in encouraging student voice better than I ever have.
I loved being a general education teacher in an inclusion classroom, but found myself
spending more and more time researching the nature of my students’ disabilities
and how I could support them in an inclusive setting. It isn’t surprising that
I ended up back in school for my Master’s in special education.
As a special education teacher I have taught students in inclusive
settings, as well as in non-categorical classrooms. I am currently in my second
year of teaching students with intellectual disabilities in a self-contained
Somehow in my career I’ve moved around the Least
Restrictive Environment spectrum, each new position giving me the opportunity
to be a new teacher again with that ridiculously high learning curve and new
challenges and adventures along the way.
I graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2003
and earned my Master’s at the University of Virginia in 2009. I teach in a
diverse, Title One elementary school outside of Washington, D.C. When I am not
working I am chasing after my two-year-old daughter, hiking with my husband, or
cheering for the Nationals.
When I started teaching at the age of 24, it struck me as
strange that several of my students were barely younger than
me. I’m entering my fourth year of responsibility
for the adult transition program teaching students ages 18-22 with moderate to
severe disabilities in a suburban public high school in Texas. I’m also the special education department head for my
My program focuses on vocational, community, social, self-help,
and independent living skills instead of traditional academics. It’s truly
something I have become very passionate about, and I love the long term
difference that I can make in the lives of my students and their families!
In 2008, I graduated from Sam Houston State University with
a Bachelor’s of music in music therapy and then from Tarleton State University
in 2012 with a Master’s of Education in curriculum & instruction with an
emphasis in special education.
As a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC), a field that
lends itself beautifully to the transition into special education, I worked in
hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living centers for several years. I
continue to provide in-home private music therapy sessions and adapted piano
lessons so that I can get my “music fix.”
I am very fond of Pentatonix, honey roasted peanuts, NCIS,
and chai tea. When I am not teaching, providing music therapy services, or
trying to eliminate my never ending pile of paperwork, you may find me running
my husband’s adult baseball team, playing guitar or piano, or enjoying the company
of my dogs – Winnie, Jessie, & Ducky!
name is Lisa and I am a 28-year-old special education teacher in the western
suburbs of Chicago. While I enjoy cooking,
crafting, playing my guitar, being outside, and writing, teaching is the
biggest part of my life.
completing my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto in 2007, I
moved back to Chicago to begin my pursuit of a teaching career. I earned a Master’s degree in special education
in 2010 and am now pursuing a second Master’s in English Language Learning (ELL)
to meet the growing needs of my student population.
currently work as a 4th grade inclusion teacher in a Pre-K–8th grade
elementary school. Previously, I worked
as a paraprofessional, a substitute, and a tutor in many different special education
settings. I have worked with students
with learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities,
hearing impairments, emotional disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and autism. My students have been both verbal and
non-verbal, readers and non-readers, challenging and endearing.
approach to teaching contains equal parts candor, irreverence, dedication,
sarcasm and a steadfast belief in the education of all students.
For the past year I have been privileged to be a Reality101 blogger.
It has beena great honor to write for such a prestigious community and to
share my thoughts and ideas and fears and dreams with my colleagues and peers.
I have especially appreciated the input from Andrea Elkin who served as our
editor for the lion’s share of the posting year and, more recently, Diane
Shinn. Both have helped me to become a more thoughtful writer and I have
benefited greatly from their editorial expertise. But I am also grateful for
the positive and encouraging feedback I have received from you, the readers.
So this is my last post for Reality101. I am sad that my
time as a writer here is complete, but I have to say that I enjoyed my time
very much and I am hopeful I can continue writing about my experiences as a
teacher elsewhere (like, say, my blog: Learning While Teaching.)
For my final post I’d like to share with you how I have been spending my summer
so far. I have titled this post: Ways to Productively Use Your Summer Break. J
One of the things I love about my job is that I get to see
my students every single day. I do not mean that I merely get to say ‘hello’
and ‘goodbye’. What I mean is that I get to see
them, observe them, listen to them, and in general pay attention to what is
going on in their lives moment to moment. As intervention specialists, our
senses are very important when it comes to our students and, as I have written
before, we are paid to pay attention. I see every opportunity as an opportunity
for collecting data.
I love what I do. I love seeing ‘my’ kids, I love when they
pass a spelling test on the first try, I love seeing them make a discovery on
their own, I love when the light clicks on in their mind, and I love when a
student with an ASD looks me in the eye first thing in the morning and says
‘hello!’ What’s more is that every single one of these events is a mine full of
data and evidence that I can use to make important academic and/or behavioral
decisions for the student.
Summer time is a great opportunity for teachers to rest and rejuvenate. We can lay aside the daily demands of the
classroom, reflect on the past school year, and begin brainstorming for the
year to come. I love summer break, but
do miss being around my students.
However, this summer, I got the opportunity to have one of those truly
heart-warming moments that I usually only experience in my classroom. You teachers know what I’m talking about — those
moments that make all the less pleasant ones fade away: When you see a student truly succeed or enjoy
an exciting, first-time experience.