This Side of Third

…and second

Summer is fast approaching!


That phrase can be both relieving and terrifying at the same time. Yay, the school year is almost over and I’ll have nothing to do; however, OMG the school year is almost over and I have so much to do! Time to plan all those summer activities, while still maintaining your rigorous instruction for your students.

I’m excited and delighted to bring you today’s post! is a resource I go to frequently for help with my lessons.  As a special education teacher, I need to access various types of activities to help me help my students.  They know you’re tired of teaching at this point, and they know your students are tired of being taught.  That’s what makes indispensable.  With lesson plans, activities, songs, and stories, you’ll never be at a loss for resources!

Here are some worksheet types to choose from:

  • Maze
  • Matching list of words with images
  • Word search
  • Crossword puzzle
  • Word scramble
  • Subtraction
  • Division
  • Multiplication

They have a variety of themes to choose from, including crawlies, a school themed template, and seasonal themes.

Get ready for summer with this kayaking themed word search from! Find more ways to practice spelling here.

So as you’re checking off your to-do list, check out  Have a great end of the year!


Here’s The Thing


I don’t have biological children, so my students are my kids.  It’s always been that way.  They are fiercely mine when I have them as current students, and they will still be my kids long after they’ve left me.  I love them, am frustrated by them, despise them, cry for them, cry with them, and lose sleep over them.  I want them to succeed, to be safe, to be cared for when they’re out of my care, to be productive members of the community, and to know that all I want is the best for them.

There have been many I’ve wanted to bring home and raise, because all other options were bleak.  I’m hard on them, have high expectations of them, push them, and am sometimes borderline mean to them.  I listen to, joke with, poke fun at, question, cajole, admonish, sing with, dance for, and play with them.  I’ve been called mom, dad, and sir.  I’ve been hit, kicked, cursed at, had my thumb broken, scratched, bit, and had whiplash twice.  I’ve been in special education for 20 years.  It’s an amazing job.  It’s a fun, scary, awful, crazy, beautiful, bittersweet, sometimes tragic, always changing, and rarely easy job.  I’m overwhelmed, under paid, and angry a lot of the time.  Nevertheless, these children are mine, and I love them.

So here’s the thing.  Regardless of whether its gun control, mental health, poor parenting, or a combination of myriad reasons, the government is letting us down.  They refuse to create and pass legislation concerning guns, but have no problem cutting back on health care, specifically mental health care, that people so desperately need.  Until such time as it is OK to send kids to school without fear of them not returning home, we should consider allowing our own protection in schools.

The argument has been made that schools cannot afford basic necessities, let alone provide their staff with arms, training, certification, etc.  Don’t arm everyone.  Not everyone is willing to carry a firearm.  Not everyone believes this is the answer, and that’s fine.  It may not be the answer, but until something else changes, why not at least try something new.

Keep a firearm in the safe that only two people can access, and only two people are trained and certified to use.  Ask for volunteers.  You may be surprised at the number of people who want to do this.  In fact, I volunteer as tribute.

I’ll purchase my own weapon and pay for training out-of-pocket.  I’ll pay for time at the range and become the next Annie Oakley.  I’ll pay for a concealed carry permit.  I’ll do what I need to do to keep my kids safe.

I’m not scared that this could happen at my school.  I’m pissed that this is happening at any school.  I’m pissed that we’ve had to teach 5-year-olds what to do in an active shooter situation in a place where they should be playing with friends, and learning to read, count, and share.

Our government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, seems to have forgotten about its most vulnerable people.  We the people need to change this.  Call, write, vote, protest, Tweet, post, blog, study, and fight.  No child, family, or community deserves this tragedy.




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?



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!



Time Keeps on Slipping, Slipping, Slipping…


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!


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


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


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:



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


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.


The Ravings of a SpEd Teacher with 26 Days Left

  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.  (

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.” (

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.””  (

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?

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