Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Teacher's Nightmare

To be completely honest, the last two weeks have been incredibly rough. I was very excited to get the opportunity to work in a district so close to home and that had such a strong union - especially in terms of special education. After getting hired, though, I found out the truth about the mess that I was inheriting. 

So, the story of my class...apparently last year's teacher was a brand new teacher to special education and had very few (and when I say very few, I really mean NO) classroom management skills. The classroom fell apart and she "babysat the kids" - according to my current principal. They ended up sacking her mid-year. They hired a substitute teacher that came in and shortly quit the job thereafter - because of the kids. They hired a second long term substitute that almost shared the same fate but the district called in the school psychologist and behavior specialist to assist. Add a few aides that also quit in between because of the class, and you can see how muddled this whole mess was.

Fast forward to three weeks ago - I had NO idea what kind of class was getting thrown at me. I had heard from various teachers and service providers that this class was a nightmare. Great. But I still went in thinking I could handle it.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how bad the class really was until I started the school year. I had two students run out of the classroom the first day and had to be chased down by my aides. I had one student crawling on top of tables. I had another child doing somersaults across the room. I had one child who told me flat out he didn't want to be in my class. I came home every night during the first week and a half of school and cried. I also started looking for other jobs. 
How I felt on the first day of class
The program specialist stopped by the Monday after we had started school just to make sure that I had come back. I'm sure she thought I wouldn't last the weekend. 

Two and a half weeks later and things have calmed down a bit - but only slightly. I still get pangs of anxiety some mornings as I drive into work. I still want to cry after a hard day with these kids. I know that I am my own worst critic and I am incredibly hard on myself. I've had several people approach me and tell me that the positive changes in the students and classroom is noticeable and that I'm doing a great job. Easier said than believed.

I just hope that I can get through to these kids. Say a prayer for me!

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Chaos Contained

With the start to the three-day holiday weekend, I have FINALLY found some time to catch y'all up on the happenings of my new classroom. It's been a long two and a half weeks...and that's an understatement. Here's what you've missed...

I started my new job on August 16th, after only having two days (the Monday and Tuesday before) to prepare my classroom. Yeah...TWO DAYS to get everything I needed to get done. Thankfully, I had my awesome teacher friend, Kim, come in and she was a huge help in getting my bulletin boards put up, furniture organized, and helped transform the hazard that was the classroom into a semi-managable mess. 

I decided to go with a jungle theme just as I did last year. I picked up some new items from TeachersPayTeachers - some sight words, a new behavior chart, a word wall alphabet, and some directional labels for the classroom - among other things!

It took two 12-hour days to get my classroom into decent shape for the students on Wednesday. One of the perks, though, was finding out that I get a nice Mac desktop computer to use in my classroom. I also managed to scrounge up some older iMacs for the kiddos to use. 

Two and a half weeks in, and we are still sorting through boxes that I have brought over from my storage unit. I found out very quickly what I could keep out and what had to be put away from prying hands. Some things will, unfortunately, have to be locked up in my cabinet.

I will post more pictures this coming week of what my classroom looks like with actual work hanging on the walls! Stay tuned!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

(Donors) Choose Me!

With the way school budgets have been for the last few years, it is no surprise that websites such as DonorsChoose have been met with such open arms from the teaching community. 

I put my first project up on the website during the first months of school last fall. It was a small project - worth a few hundred dollars - that would provide my then kindergarten classroom with some much needed assistive technology. The project included things such as a variety of pencil grips, weights, finger puppets that encouraged the appropriate tripod pencil grasp (seriously!), adapted scissors for both right- and left-handed students, and some individual GoTalk communication boards. 

I was surprised and ecstatic to find out in November that my project had been funded in full by one corporate donor. I couldn't believe that it was that easy or that I was that lucky!

Unfortunately, I haven't posted any additional projects on the website because of my lack of time - until recently. I just got done posting a project for a classroom mini iPad - and I'm really excited about it!

Mini iPad
The new district I work for is hoping to make all of the classrooms in their district 1:1 iPad classrooms, with iPads for each student in every classroom. I'm very excited about this, but I know - just as many other teachers do - the expense of such a dream in face of the brutal fiscal situation many districts currently find themselves. So...until I have 15 classroom iPads, I'm not holding my breath.

But I do hope to get just one through my DonorsChoose project. Despite the fact that one iPad to 14 students will not always work in my favor, I figure that one has the potential to get them excited, engaged, and inspired enough to learn this year!

Wish me luck!
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Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Girl's Best Friend

During my first year of teaching, I decided to invest in a laminator for my classroom. As a special education teacher of young, kindergarten children I felt that I would be saving myself a lot of money, time, and anxiety if I had one of my own and not have to rely on my school's laminator. (My then school site's on-campus laminator was notorious for producing horrible lamination and breaking down constantly.) This was probably one of the better decisions of that year.
Royal laminator
I purchased a Royal laminator from Walmart (for approximately $50) and couldn't have been more happy with it. It was easy to use, durable, and I didn't have to worry about any complicated settings. It was also user-friendly enough where I could solve basic troubleshooting issues and jams independently. 
I loved my classroom laminator so much that earlier this year I bought another one (the same model) for my home!

Unfortunately, as a teacher and graduate student, I got busy and my brand new home laminator sat unopened in its box until recently when I pulled it out to work on laminating some items for new classroom. 

Everything was going wonderful until I put in a sheet to be laminated...and it didn't come out of the other side. Being the geek that I am, I grabbed my toolbox and went to unscrew all the bits and pieces. When I finally managed to take the thing apart, I saw that the piece of lamination had gotten stuck and had almost melded onto a piece of the rack.

I was able to get the jam cleared but the laminator did not survive the process, unfortunately.

The deceased
I couldn't fathom losing my laminator so I went onto Amazon and immediately purchased another one. This time around I decided to go with the Scotch brand - it was cheaper than the original laminator and had a variation of settings for different thicknesses of lamination. (It also had much better reviews than the Royal!)

I was planning on laminating this weekend, but I guess that plan is nixed until I get my new laminator. (You'll get to see the fruits of my labor when I post pictures of my new classroom next week!)

Until next time...
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Friday, August 9, 2013

And I'm a Shopping Addict...

I have to make a confession. I went school supply shopping AGAIN the other day (which is quite funny, considering I don't currently have a classroom!) If they had the equivalent of AA for teachers with shopping problems, I would be a frequent attendee. 

In my defense, though, I will say that Target and Joann's continue to have great back-to-school sales. I came across some great finds.

A travel-themed scrapbook on clearance for $3!
A teacher can never have too many fancy scissors. 
Working on a scrapbook from my trip abroad and these fancy accents were half-price!
Yes, I am! 
Clearance section at Target - only $5 to $8!
Another awesome find in the dollar bins at Target! 

Only 99 cents at Target's back-to-school sale!
More dollar finds including flashcards with dinos, presidents and the U.S.
$1 classics at Target!

Showing my spots - for my classroom!
And of course, some more movies for my collection!
I will definitely be putting these items to good use this year!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Uh-Oh

With less than two weeks until the start of a brand new school year, I have been busy preparing as much as I can without being able to get into my classroom. Construction is currently underway at my school site and teachers won't be let into their classrooms until the weekend before the Wednesday we start school. Bummer, I know. 

I love classroom decorating and set-up. It really builds the anticipation of a new school year and is something I look forward to every August. I wasn't thinking my first year of teaching when I decided to make my classroom as "cutesy" as possible. I spent many an afternoon and evening changing bulletin boards (paper, borders, and accents - oh my!) It was exhausting and I felt that as soon as I had one board completed it was time to take it down and put up the next month's board.

Last year - during my second year of teaching - I got smart. I decided to have one cohesive classroom theme and the only thing I would have to change on my bulletin boards was the student work. This worked out much better and I wasn't spending my weekends in my classroom.

Last year's theme was "the jungle." You can see pictures of my former classroom here - in all of its jungle glory. I loved it and my kids liked it too!

This year I wanted to change it up and go with an outer space theme - something I could easily make decor and/or buy products for. I was so excited about my planned space odyssey...until I found out the news about my classroom.

My principal informed me that a tree had fallen during the summer on the bungalow that was supposed to be my classroom. The construction company that is currently on campus doing other work has declined to take the additional job, therefore setting into motion an entirely different process for bidding on the proposed work with the school district. 

So, instead of heading to space, I'm going to be heading to my storage unit to drag out all of my jungle-themed classroom items. With so little time in the classroom before the beginning of the year, I figured reusing my decor from last year will save me time in having to create a totally new set of borders, trims, accents, etc. 

At this point, I don't have a classroom - which makes me very nervous considering how close the beginning of school is. The good news is that the school has two rooms that are not currently being used as classrooms. The bad news? Both classrooms would require a significant amount of moving items/furniture and my principal isn't sure where they would store the things.

I really like the idea of having an actual classroom as opposed to a bungalow - particularly this one classroom that is in close proximity to the front office and copy room! I'm crossing my fingers that things work out and I get into a classroom - and soon!

I will post some pictures as soon as I find out more!

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