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.


There’s No Place Like Home


I wish I had one.  Technically, I guess I do.  There is a classroom in which my desk, chair, and a few of my belongings live, but I’m hardly ever there, and I won’t be there next year.  I pack and move classrooms every. single. year.

In my district, all special education students are taught in the general education classrooms.  To be sure that the same GenEd teachers don’t always have the kids who struggle, the classrooms where the special ed students are placed rotate every year within each grade.  With that comes the rotation of the SpEd teacher. Hence, the moving, the lack of permanency, the misplacement of more things than I can remember.

There was one year that all SpEd teachers and paraprofessionals were housed in one room.  It was awesome! We were all in one, central location making it easy to collaborate, cover, help out, and really function as a team. Unfortunately, a few GenEd teachers got butt-hurt and felt that we were a club, a clique if you will.  They protested our togetherness, and instead of backing us and the design of, and reason for, the grouping, administration disbanded us the following year.  Luckily we were able to keep a form of togetherness as we were separated into primary and secondary teams.  Then someone had to go and ruin that.  Now we’re scattered throughout the school and I really have no idea who the two new SpEd teachers are, what they do, or who they work with.  It’s pretty pathetic.

As for organization, since I move so often, color coordinating is my friend.  So are stickie notes, my large desk that I shove stuff in, and that giant tub of teaching gear I keep in the bedroom.  The cat loves it as she can sit in her bed and look out over the back yard.

Since I don’t have my own room, I’ve decorated my desk with fortunes, stickers, signs, and notes. Right now it’s pretty clean and organized since I just did that last week.  I figure by the end of the month I won’t be able to see the top of my desk again.  I should really clean out my filing cabinet…



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!





In recent years I’ve come across presentations and on-line discussions using a little-known (to me, anyway) application called VoiceThread.

VoiceThread is an interactive collaboration and sharing tool that enables users to add images, documents, and videos, and to which other users can add voice, text, audio file, or video comments. You can post your VoiceThread on your website or save it to an MP3 or DVD. (


VoiceThread is a cloud application, so there is no software to install. The only system requirement is an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash. VoiceThread will work in any modern web browser and on almost any Internet connection.

Upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos. Over 50 different types of media can be used in a VoiceThread.


Comment on VoiceThread slides using one of five powerful commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.


Keep a VoiceThread private, share it with specific people, or open it up to the entire world. Learn more about sharing VoiceThreads.

Download the App and sign into your account to:

  • Capture images from your camera or upload them from your photo library.
  • Flip through slides with the flick of a finger and annotate while you narrate.
  • Share VoiceThreads as easily as sending an email.
  • Receive notifications for new comments on your VoiceThreads.
  • Access the extensive catalog of existing content on

A single educator registration is $15/month which includes the following:

  • 50 student accounts (add more at any time for $2 each)
  • Create student usernames (email address not required)
  • Automatically be made an editor of student work
  • Manager tool to create classes and student accounts
  • Custom web address to easily share public VoiceThreads



I am Very Popular


I have a date every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.  Actually, I have two dates on Tuesday nights.  I am THAT awesome.  I don’t even know the real names of many of the people…only their screen names.  And there’s many of them.  Sounds sketchy, right?  A little freaky?  Actually, it’s all on the up and up.  I’m really not that awesome.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, I’m chatting with fellow educators through different Twitter Chats.  Twitter Chats are a great way for like-minded people to interact with each other about specific topics, on set days, at set times.  For example, on Monday nights at 8:00 pm (EST) I discuss topics on #edtechchat (educational technology).  Tonight’s 8pm chat for #mdedchat (the Maryland education chat) is focused on Starting Strong as we head back into the new school year.  I also participate in #spedchat (special education), and #symchat (SymbalooEDU user group).


The best way I’ve found to approach multiple chats, as well as my own Twitter feeds, is through TweetDeck.  TweetDeck lines up all your Twitter feeds into handy columns.  Below is a screen shot of a portion of my deck.  My columns include my professional and personal feeds, and the four chats I participate in each week.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 2.56.24 PM


It really is exciting to connect with colleagues from around the world.  There are so many ideas shared, and questions answered each week.  I highly recommend joining one or more of these each week.  There is a list of weekly education chats that you can access here.

It’s easy to be as popular as I am!  Sign up for a chat that interests you and join in–they’re addictive, though.  One chat turns into 5 in a matter of weeks!  Here are a few steps to help you get started.

Good luck, my friends!  Have fun!  @thissideofthird


No Pity. No Sympathy.


I live in an area that is quite impoverished.  Most of the students in my school are on ‘free and reduced lunch’ and we send food bags home to a few families on the weekends so the kids have something to eat.  Poverty’s not pretty.  Someone once told me that there’s no shame in being poor; it’s just mighty inconvenient.  However, that’s not what has me furious.  It’s what often comes with poverty (at least around here it does) that has me upset.  Addiction.

It took me five attempts just to write that word.  I hate that word.  I just feel like…it’s…an excuse. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been a drug user, or an alcohol abuser.  Maybe it’s because over the years I turned to food for my feelings in stead of crack.  And again, that was an excuse.  I was sad-I ate.  I was happy-I ate.  I was stressed-I ate.  All just excuses to get to the Double Stuff Oreos in the closet. I’ve managed to put a stop to that, for the most part.

The reason addiction bothers me so much, and the reason I have no sympathy for those in addiction, is because I see what it does to the children.  Mostly it’s the youngest children.  They haven’t learned to cover anything up yet.  They come out with whatever is on their minds.  Older kids know what so say, and how to deflect.

The other day was an emotional one.  After a pretty good reading intervention group with my Kindergarten kids, one of the 5 year olds told me his dad was in Florida.  When I asked if Dad was visiting Disney, the child told me in the most matter-of-fact tone that dad gets high and had to go to Florida to get the dope that comes in the little blue baggies.  Holy shit.  He’s talking to me about this like his dad is going to WalMart to get bread.  Holy shit.

Thankfully the three other boys were unaware of the meaning of this conversation, and calmly and cheerfully I escorted them back to their classes.  The other two adults in the room could barely contain their astonishment.  I had to contain mine.

I don’t know why this affected me so much.  I’ve heard similar conversations from kids in the past.  So I found our in-house DSS worker (yeh. In-house.), broke down in tears, and let her know the conversation.  She was very understanding, told me she’d look into it right away (she did), and said, “This is addiction.”  I understand where she’s coming from and why she said that.  I don’t understand that as a reason.  I don’t accept that as a reason.

I don’t care if you want to do that shit on your own.  Go ahead and destroy your life.  Please leave my kids out of it.  Don’t use, deal, discuss, snort, sniff, shoot, beat, hit, punch, scream, bleed, tie-off, or otherwise put my kids in the vicinity of this shit.  That five year old kid, who doesn’t know his letters, letter sounds, or how to spell his name after a year and a half of school deserves so much better than what you’re giving him.

I mention the “beat, hit, punch, scream, bleed” in the previous paragraph because later that same day, I had an IEP screening meeting with a woman who is raising her four great-grandchildren, ages four and under.  Why? Because of addiction and the violence that seems to stem from it.  The little boy we discussed will turn 4 in March.  He throws raging tantrums, hits, throws things, screams obscenities..and has seen his mother and two year old brother beaten to a pulp.  Any wonder why he acts out?

So many stories like this (like the first grade child put in foster care because they found coke in his system, and not the good kind) occur not just at my school, by at many others across the country.  How do we stop this?  It’s not enough to have our yearly Red Ribbon Week when we educate the kids about drugs and alcohol.  Do we make the parents watch that God-awful Intervention show?  Force tough love down people’s throats?  “Sober up, or else” doesn’t deter people.  We need to find something that does. Maybe a harsher “or else.”

Here’s a thought: don’t start using drugs and you won’t become addicted.  Sure, some may have experimented with a few things in college and they haven’t turned it into an addiction.  That’s great. But that’s not everyone.  Why tempt it?  This is why I have no pity or sympathy.  You did it to yourself. No one held a gun to you and said, “Do this or else I’ll kill you.”  OK.  In the rare instance that this actually happened, I’m sorry.  Otherwise, just say, “no”.

Say NO to a life of poverty, to a life where you’re scraping for money for your next fix, but ignoring the fact your kids have no food or clothes.  Say NO to living in fear of sickness and death.  Say NO to a life of lies, a life of not knowing who to trust, a life of alienating those that would help you if you’d let them.  Say NO to the violence and the heartbreak and the self-loathing.   Say NO to putting your kids in an intolerable environment.

Get help.  If not for you, then for your family, your children.  Ultimately, it should be for you, but if you aren’t there yet, do it for the most important people in your life.  Parents, talk to your kids.  Not just in a passing way, but in a serious, meaningful way.  Be vigilant.  Get the message through.  I am so blessed with the family I have.  They made it a point to drive this home.

Get help.  I don’t want to have anymore of these conversations with my five year olds.  Thank you. (Worldwide) (Local)


Just a Few Thoughts


School Districts: When paperwork takes precedence over progress and rapport, it’s time for Education to step back and take a look at itself.  Why is what Education looks like more important than what Education is?  (That’s a horribly constructed sentence. Sorry.)

Federal Government: It’s 2015. Let two legal, consenting adults to marry the person they love. Man-man; man-woman; woman-woman~Love is love. Let the Lord sort it out in the end.

Sports Illustrated: 12 is not plus-sized. Get over your sanctimonious selves.

Parents: Vaccinate your kids. Seriously.

Fox News states the president is looking for authorization to attack ISIS. Dear Mr. President: You have my permission, authorization, and blessing.  Go!

Did I miss anything? If I did, feel free to add it below.

Reflection on my Christmas Break


We were given an unprecedented two weeks off this year for Christmas break.  It was wonderful.  I lazed around and did almost nothing.  That’s not true.  I ate.  A lot.  Cookies, bread, chocolates, popcorn, and cheese all found their way in.  Alright…I let them in, who am I kidding? 

I also watched all the Christmas shows and movies I could find.  I typically do not watch those cheesy Hallmark/LMN mushy romance movies.  I can’t stand them; however, plop a Christmas bow on them and I’m all over it.  I can’t get enough.  Window Wonderland, Fir Crazy, Let it Snow, Meet the Santas, and many others were watched several times those two weeks.  I think on December 26th, 2014, the Hallmark Channel announced that it’s Christmas season for 2015 begins on November 1st.  It’s on my calendar.

ABC Family channel had their 25 days of Christmas and I couldn’t have been happier.  These are the shows and movies I grew up with.  The Heat Miser and Cold Miser never get old, and Scrooged is a favorite for a much deeper meaning than the movie provides.  Of course every time Christmas Vacation is shown I watch it.  Ev-er-y time.    

ABC Family also had their obligatory Harry Potter weekend.  The Hubs is sick to death of HP.  I watch them whenever they’re shown, and always cry from the time Dumbledore dies through Snape’s memories in the pensieve.  Always. 

Am I the only one who is sad when TV channels and radio stations go back to playing their normal routines?  It’s a bit depressing that all the happy, jolly, fun, jingly, stuff goes away.  I guess that’s what makes it special when it comes around again.  Thank God for Pandora and it’s Jazz Holidays Radio!  That plays all year. 🙂

I also decided, over this two week break, that I could, indeed, be a hermit.  All I need are books to read, knitting and cross-stitch supplies, coffee, and the Internet connection to order it all.  I’ll bet even the locusts and honey are appetizing if prepared correctly.  

Happy New Year, everyone!

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