This Side of Third

…and second

#EDUBLOGSCLUB The Road Back

January4

I have been gone from blogging for far too long.  Unmotivated, busy, stressed, distracted, knitting, good books, and a host of other things are to be blamed.  In fact, I think I only posted twice last year. My Tweeting dropped off, my attendance in Twitter Chats is non-existent, and I haven’t done a thing with my SymbalooEDU account.

Typically I make a hefty amount of NY resolutions.  All of them, save one, (OK, all of them) fall by the wayside.  This year I’ve made no such promises to myself.  The only statement about 2017 I’ve made is to simply “Try Harder.”  Whatever that may mean.  This blog post is my second attempt at Trying Harder at something.  The first attempt has to do with boring work stuff, and you don’t need to hear about that.

I have a blogroll of other sites I’d like to visit, blogs I’d like to read, ideas I’d like to try…but who has the time?  When I do have the time, it gets spent on reading, knitting, bingeing, etc.  You know, me-time. I never even think about other blogs, which is sad because there are great ones to be sure.

I guess one of my goals for completing this challenge is not only to rejuvenate my own blog, but to really invest in reading others’.  We all have a story, and we all have something someone else needs. Your crappy day may boost someone else; your students’ projects may inspire a new way to think; your Michaels/JoAnn/Hobby Lobby on-line coupons may save an otherwise doomed lesson.

So now I’m off to update my About Me info and scroll through the themes.  If I’m going to do this, I at least need to Try Harder to make this blog look good.  Happy blogging, friends!!

You Want Me to Relax?

July13

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I can not relax this summer!!!  What is it?!  I just will not settle down.  I had to force myself to read and knit last night and that wasn’t until 8 p.m. and didn’t last long at all.

I always save “things to do” during the school year that I need to conquer in the summer months.  You know, the big stuff: Cleaning out drawers, closets, the pantry, cabinets; scrubbing floors, scrubbing appliances, finding the source of that smell of death in the basement (Hubby left steaks out of the chest freezer, which then fell into a tub of other things, and they thawed.  Weeks ago.  After yesterday I am now capable of cleaning up any crime scene.).

I get these to-do things done immediately upon vacating the classroom so I can enjoy the rest of my summer.  This generally means, voracious reading, knitting, beach trips, and crap TV.  This summer, every time I finish one household project, I purposely find another to do.  I’m getting anxious and nervous when I sit down to do relaxing stuff, like I should be doing something more important. I have to force myself to relax this summer, and I’m not being very successful.  I had an anxiety attack today and started pacing the floor when I’d finally decided to sit down and begin a task I’d been looking forward to for months.  What the hell is wrong with me?!  I need a summer vacation from my summer vacation.

I can’t imagine other teachers go through this.

My hubby’s physical health is not so great, and he’s also struggling with some issues that weigh heavily on his mind.  I’ve had to pick up the slack in areas I can usually depend on him to cover.  Am I picking up on his anxiety? Am I afraid to relax?  Am I worried that I might miss something?  It’s like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but there are no shoes.

Maybe it’s all the staff changes in the coming year.  I’ve never seen so many teachers leave one school in one year.  11 teachers are moving on to other schools, other positions, other states.  Incredible.

I’ve got to snap out of this. I’m wasting my summer.  Tomorrow I’m heading to the library to check out copious amounts of reading material.  I’ll finish my current knitting project and get started on those baby booties I need to make (twins!~no, not me).  I’ll find some crap TV to watch.  I’ll have fun this summer, damn it, if it kills me!

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Time Keeps on Slipping, Slipping, Slipping…

September4

Teachers work all hours of the day, every day.  It’s just something we do.  It’s something we’re used to.  We don’t even think about it anymore.  Let me ask you this: Why?  Why are we used to this?  Also, when did this become the norm, and how did we miss this conversion?

My co-teacher and I were talking the other day about how much of teachers’ own time is used in planning for our school day.  She is a 29-year veteran and I’ve been doing this for 19 years.  She asked me, “Do you remember a time in your career when you didn’t spend so much out-of-school-time planning?”  I do.  We both do.

I remember teaching in MA where I not only taught classes, but also had my special ed caseload.  We didn’t have a special ed secretary, or a building coordinator, so I did everything from initial contact and testing through to the development of the IEP, including all paperwork and meetings.  I was still able to work a normal day and leave work at work. Of course there were times when I needed to play catch-up and bring work home, but that was far from the norm.

There was even a time when I starting teaching in in MD when I arrived at 8:15, left no later than 4, and brought nothing home with me.  Over time, I began arriving at work 15 minutes early, then 30 minutes, then 45…now I get there at 7 every day.  I’m not required to be at work until 8:15.  You would think that extra 75 minutes would be enough overtime to get the work done.  As any teacher will tell you, it’s not.

I bring home a minimum of an hour of work each night, and many more on the weekends. From plans, to IEPs, to reading professional literature, to misc. paperwork…there’s never a night I don’t have something.  Again, I ask: When did it get like this, and why?  And why do we continue to do this to ourselves?

I may not have the most packed social calendar, but I do have things to do outside of work. Even if it’s only watching the Eagles while I knit, it’s something!  I’d like to go back to a time when it was ok to leave work and have a life.  If we do that now, teachers either feel guilty, or overloaded when it’s time to catch up.

Just because it’s Labor Day Weekend, don’t take that to mean you must labor all weekend. Take some time for you and your family.  Do something fun! 🙂

Back To School!

August5

I hate to drop the “B-phrase” on you guys, but there’s no denying it…it’s that time.  Sigh.  We are headed back to a new year.  This is our new beginning.  Time to let last year go, and embrace the challenges (both good and bad) of the new year.

Maybe this is your first year.  Could be your first year in a different school, county, state, grade level.  Maybe you’re going back to the same position you’ve had for the last 30 years.  Maybe this is your last year.  As for me, I’ll be starting with a new-ish grade level team and a totally new special ed team.  Lots of changes; lots to learn.

If you’ve been reading along, first, thank you.  Second, you know that last year was difficult.  Even developments over the summer have tested my patience.  I’m not going to rehash it.  To quote my aunt, “It is what it is.” Or in this case, it was what it was.  What I am going to do, as difficult as it may be, is let go and let God.  OK, that’s a lie.  At first I’m going to talk with a particular person, clear a few things, and then let go.  That may also be a lie.  I’ll TRY to let go.

What I want to do here is be encouraging to fellow teachers, whether you’re starting out, making changes, or going back to what you know.  I want teachers to know that you are appreciated, if only by fellow teachers.  I want teachers to know that you are doing a phenomenal job.  Regardless of where you teach, the salary you make, the out-of-pocket expenses you accrue, the hours you dedicate, the backlash from parents, media, admin, and the occasional bratty kids, and how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally, YOU ARE AWESOME.  

Go into this school year with a fresh outlook, a clean slate, and a smile.  Go back with the attitude that you will make a difference.  Start this year with a smile, a prayer, a large coffee, and maybe some homemade baked goods for your team.  If you need to add some Bailey’s to that coffee, be sure to brush your teeth before you talk to anyone.  Be the encourager to those around you.  It really is contagious.

Have an amazing 2015-2016 school year!!

Misplaced My Motivation

July16

Here I sit, finally prepping for the start of the new school year.  After this past year, and with new developments, and a smidge of self-pity, I already want the year to start so it can be over so next summer can arrive.

I’ve done nothing school-related for the last month because I needed a break.  No Tweet Chats, no blogging, no shopping, no classes.  This is only the second time I’ve opened my laptop.  I did read three work-related books, so I guess I didn’t do nothing.  I just have no motivation to give more to a job that gave me nothing but grief, no matter what I did to change it. Especially over vacation.

At the end of the year, I was looking forward to this break so I could get education-related stuff done that I couldn’t get to while teaching.  I have two separate lists created to ensure I wouldn’t forget all the things I wanted to accomplish now that I had time.  Know how much I’ve done in the last month?  About 30% of it.  Once I got away from the school environment, I lost my motivation.

I’m like that with running, also.  If I don’t have a race looming in the near future, I tend to slack off on my runs.  My next race isn’t until September. That’s too far off.  I’m going to need to give myself a goal to keep up with exercising.  Hmm…  I have a month until school begins.  Wonder if I can lose 20 lbs….

Anyway… I suppose I’m nervous (nervous? no. concerned? not right. apprehensive? meh.) cautious about this new year.  When the entire SpEd team asks to leave the school for other jobs in the county (and outside the county) that should be a red flag.  Someone, somewhere, needs to recognize that.  So everyone received new their new positions in the county for the upcoming year.  Except me.  I’m still here.  With a new team. Although you can’t call it a team, because even when we were all still together, we were not a team.  That was frowned upon.  There was no SpEd team; only grade-level teams which the SpEd teacher was a part of.  Uh-huh.  I’ve been told that will be different this year.

I’m also on a new grade-level team than the last three years.  For this I am happy.  While not a fan of change, I needed to get back to the little guys. I’ve left third grade and returned to PK and Kindergarten.  I will miss my teammates in third, but the team in ECE is solid.  However, this blog is called This Side of Third (Third Grade Things).  Do I change it (This Side of Kindergarten)?  Modify it (FKA This Side of Third)?

I actually spent an hour looking at new blog themes here, and on WordPress, for inspiration. Nothing happened.  So, for now, even though it’s an untruth, the blog remains what it is.  Although, this happened:  IMG_0990  It’s tough helping mom with her blog and listening to jazz.

I know it seems like I’m always bitching about my job.  I DO love teaching. I just don’t like all the crazy that goes with it.  And if I don’t vent here, I tend to do it at work, and that gets me in trouble.

That Kid

June3

Any teacher with a number of years under his/her belt has had That Kid.  When you have That Kid, you look like this, A LOT:

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I have That Kid this year. It’s been a rough year with him.  I swore he was going to be the end of my career, either because I was going to snap and quit, or snap and get fired.  Luckily we’ve made it this far without either happening.

That Kid is oppositional, defiant, argumentative, disrespectful, difficult, exasperating, and uncooperative.  He refuses to complete work, won’t keep his hands to himself, argues with staff and peers, back-talks, doesn’t follow directions…I think you get it.

That Kid’s mom just had a meeting with his IEP team yesterday in which she pulled the “Not my kid” card.  “He’s never defiant or uncooperative at home.”  Apparently, her definition of those adjectives is different than EVERYONE ELSE’S as she then proceeded to tell us all the misdoings that go on at home. They sound strikingly similar to what we see at school.

I’ve tried my best to help him to read, write, calculate, be a better friend, a better student, a better person.  We’ve had long talks, arguments, staring contests, and even bribery.  Needless to say, it’s been a long year.  Actually, this is my second year with That Kid.  He hasn’t mellowed with age.

Today, 173 days into the school year, we took a step forward.

This is the last week of assessing the students. Grades are due Monday.  All teachers are shoving tests at their students to get those final grades, and the kids are wearing down.  I spent the afternoon with That Kid trying to help him complete his four tests.  Like…pulling…teeth.  For both of us.

That Kid had gotten most of one test finished, opting out of the final question because he couldn’t think of the answer, declined taking the math test (his strong suit), and only took the social studies test because I was doing most of the work.  He said, “All I want to do is take a nap.”  With 20 minutes left in the day, I understood.  He practically begged me to stop working.

I sent him on a bathroom break (an extended break, as he always plays around in there).  While he was gone, and with the help of my trusty co-teacher, we set up his test to answer that one, last question.  He answered, I wrote, he was done.  With 10 minutes left in the day, I told him to grab a Chromebook (his most favorite thing, ever) and be done with testing for today.

That Kid got a Chromebook, packed up, walked over to my desk……and thanked me.  Sincerely.  “Thank you for letting me get a Chromebook.”  And then he did something I will hang on to for the rest of my life.  That Kid hugged me.  A true, honest, heartfelt, hug.  He has never hugged me before.

With 7 days to go, we did it.  We made a breakthrough.  We finally made that connection.  That Kid just made my year.

 

 

Teacher Appreciation Week

May11

Teacher appreciation week isn’t about the gifts, kind words, or treats. It’s about the boy who wrote an essay and stated that I’m one of the best teachers in the world, who’s helping him to be a handsome man, and that if it weren’t for me (and his homeroom teacher) he wouldn’t be writing that essay.  It’s about my kids scoring Effective and Highly Effective on their Student Learning Objectives despite that fact that I’ve gotten Needs Improvement and Ineffective on my teaching observations all year. THAT’s what matters to me. Believe in yourselves, teachers, because your kids (and I) believe in you.

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The Ravings of a SpEd Teacher with 26 Days Left

May5
  1. A resource room is a separate, remedial classroom in a school where students with educational disabilities, such as specific learning disabilities, are given direct, specialized instruction and academic remediation and assistance with homework and related assignments as individuals or in groups.  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_room)

According to Wikipedia, a resource room is an asset to education.  So why have they gone by the wayside?  Why can’t children with special learning needs access this help in the public school?

“A class room where a special-education teacher works with a small group of students, using techniques that work more efficiently with a special-needs population is resource room. A resource room provides needed students with additional help while letting such students remain generally with the mainstream.” (http://definitions.uslegal.com/r/resource-room-education/)

As stated above, U.S. Legal states the same information.  A resource room is a separate classroom where students visit, not stay, in order to get the specialized instruction they need.

Here is a link to a PPT that shows how a resource room works, presented by the National Association of Special Education Teachers.

So why don’t these rooms exist?  Maybe they do where you live, but not here.  This is why:

“Special education services should be delivered in regular education classes (not special classes, separate schooling, or other removal from the regular ed environment) except “when the nature or severity of the disability of the child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.””  (http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=2823)

The nature and severity of many students in my county warrant the need for a resource room, even for only part of the day.  That’s not happening, and is not likely to happen any time soon.  I think that’s a disservice to our kids that need it the most.

I’d really like to teach in a resource room.  I never wanted to be in the gen ed classroom.  I used to have a self-contained classroom for children with autism.  It was the greatest job.  I’ve only ever wanted to work with special needs students.  Now I’m in the regular classroom where it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to meet my students’ needs.

The general ed teachers now have some very difficult students in their classrooms.  These teachers didn’t go to school for special ed.  They’re not equipped, and often don’t want to teach these populations. How is that beneficial to the students?

We need to bring back the resource room in public schools.  I don’t see it as a segregation of sorts.  I see it as it was intended~a room with minimal distractions for direct, specialized instruction for students with IEPs.  How is that wrong?

A Time of New Beginnings

April6

Spring and Easter are occasions for rebirth, new growth, emergence, and reflection. That’s just what I did this weekend.

I started counting calories again, I said a few extra prayers, I took time for myself, and I also did something scary. I took a leap of faith and trusted in the season of renewal.

People get settled, complacent, entrenched in various parts of their lives. Some may not even notice. I noticed.

Many people allow this settling because they don’t like change. Change is scary. Change is uncertain. Once you get past the scary, though, change is exciting!

My leap of faith may not turn out as I hope; however, change has begun. Even if it’s only been in me. 😊

Do Titles Matter? I Guess They Do.

March25

I want to begin this post by saying I have nothing against paraprofessionals (teacher assistants, to the layman).  Many of my dearest friends are paras, and some of the best times I’ve had have been with these awesome women.  They do as much work for the students as teachers do, and are paid less than half of what teachers are paid, with no guaranteed job security from year to year.

That said, I have been feeling pretty…crappy for the last 24 hours about something.  It’s almost too embarrassing to admit to the general public.  I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s not all that bad, but for some reason, it’s effected me.

A parent was very nice and sent a letter (email) of thanks to the principal of my school as well as the superintendent stating that her child’s teacher goes above and beyond to help the child and communicate with the parents and generally is just awesome.  I agree.  She does do this and more and does it for every child in her class.

She also mentioned his reading intervention teacher and how lucky her child is to have this person.  It’s true.  Our interventionist is truly great.

She also mentioned me, the teacher assistant, who also shows a lot of care and concern for her child’s education.  Nice, right?  Sigh.

I guess I get it.  Her child is not in special education (but soon will be) and she has no cause to think of me as a SpEd teacher, even though I’ve been introduced as such.  She’s not the first parent to do this and I guess she won’t be the last.  It still stings, though.  Like, a lot.

Both the principal and the superintendent answered back to the original email.  They thanked her for the email, stated they agree with her about the child’s teacher, and that the intervention team works very hard to ensure students are successful.  Notice anything missing?  Yeh. Me, too.

No one addressed the error of my being a special education teacher~not teacher assistant.  Sure, maybe the superintendent doesn’t know.  I’ll give her that.  Maybe the principal didn’t want to make the parent feel badly.  Maybe she included me in with the intervention team.  Maybe she never even thought to correct the error.  Maybe…

After the year I’ve been having, this just tops it off.  I was at work by 7, asked for plans for review before 8 (because paperwork is the most important thing in teaching~not progress), had one of my students refuse to do his work, stayed until after 4 because an IEP meeting I’d been in since 2:45 went a little long (while I watched a co-worker walk out at 3:45 without a word because the duty day was done), only to come across that chain of emails.  I was pissed, but I thought it was just me.

I am lucky to work with a good group of supportive teachers.  The classroom teacher was appalled about it, and the intervention teacher apologized.  I was quick to let her know the apology was unnecessary.  They, and a few others who’d heard about it (not from me~I was too upset to say anything), offered me their love and kind words.  It was nice.

Again, in the grand design, I suppose it’s not all that horrible, but it does hurt.  It’s just that when you go above and beyond for your students, spend HOURS and DAYS (and nights) working on IEPs, progress reports, charts, cues, research, lesson plans, data collection and crunching, assessing, and, oh yeh, teaching, it’s a bit disconcerting to hear you’re only thought of as a para.  Especially by those that know better.

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