This Side of Third

…and second

Another Lesson in Perseverence…or Stupidity


It’s probably stupidity.  Honestly, it’s me.  Maybe I shouldn’t say stupid.  Let’s call it strong-willed, hard-headed, or even prideful.  Stubborn?  Whatever.  It’s me doing what I know I shouldn’t do, and not doing what I should do.  Le’ me ‘splain.

I am a runner in the loosest sense of the word.  My best 5k time is 37:00.  That’s roughly a 12-minute mile.  Certainly not a Boston qualifying time.  I typically don’t enjoy running; I force myself out the door.  I do it because it’s healthy, I give myself goals to work toward (races), and it’s helping me to lose weight.  I’d much rather be at home reading, knitting, cross-stitching, or writing.  Sadly, none of those will help me tighten up that which jiggles.

I went for my run last night, slogging through the first intervals on my 10k app (apparently, I’m not happy enough running only 3.1 miles).  I got through the first two 8-minute sections and headed down the last hill for my last 8 minutes.  I realized I was actually enjoying myself…for the first time, ever.  I was loving this!  I’d broken through that proverbial wall and was in the zone!

CRASH!  My left ankle rolled, sending my left foot inward, landing me on my right calf, hip, and hand.  OH MY GOD!  I rolled over on my back, threw my arms to the side, and lie there in the middle of the road.  My iPod took a hit on the way down, and that stupid stick I run with (my husband thinks I’m going to be attacked by bears when I run) was the only sound in nature as it continued to roll down the rest of the hill.

The first thing I did was to see if I ripped my capris-they’re my favorite.  Then I limped to the bottom of the hill, caught my breath and ran back up, cursing at myself the whole way. If Kerri Strug and Joy Johnson can carry on, so could I.  I will triumph!

I have a race next Saturday, a race that I think I have a chance to finish strong.  It’s a very small field, and I think it may have more walkers than runners.  I may have a chance to place better than 13th in my age group!  I’m so irritated!!!  I was finally enjoying myself!  I broke that wall and left it in the dust!  I have a race in 9 days!  WTH?!

The first thing I did when I got home I iced the ankle with a bag of pierogi for a few minutes and tried to stay off of it.  The Hubs gave me a bag of frozen bananas later to use, but that just annoyed me.  I was fine.  It’s all good!

So today I’m wearing a skirt and slippers.  Mr. Blackwell is rolling over in his grave.  The skirt is not to show off my battle wound.  I’d rather hide that.  The skirt is because I can’t wear pants.  The slippers are because I can’t wear a shoe on my left foot (my ankle is the size of a tennis ball).  I look lovely.

So here I am…swollen, in (some) pain, scratched up, and irritated.  I threatened the students with showing them my ugly leg if they don’t behave.  I hope my silent lesson in appearances and perseverance get through to the kids.  I may need to teach a specific lesson though.  I don’t have the most, um, aware students.












Writing is Fundamental


This Side of Third is sitting at a table with her peers, waiting to begin a training titled “Fundamentals in the Sentence Writing Strategy-Part 1 Sentence Composing” Zzzzzzzz. I can’t imagine how this is going to go. My degree is a B.S. in English-Writing. I think I may be a bit bored. Do I want to say bored when I know countless hours went into this training? I think I do. At least I’m with friends. Everything is good when you’re with friends who can appreciate your sarcastic humor. 🙂 I’ll let you know how this goes….. OK, here’s how it goes: I’ve already missed the first five minutes of the introduction because I tuned out.

Aaaaaannnnnd we’re back. Wow. What a training. I was both bored and interested. How does that happen? I appreciate the message the training team was sending, and I can tell they really like what was being presented. It’s just that I felt like I was back in grade school learning the basics of writing. I realize that not everyone is the same and we haven’t all had similar education; however, I do believe it was a bit (wait for it) fundamental.

A light bulb just glowed over my head. I think (duhn, duhn, duhn) I’m a writing snob. I’m not saying I’m a genius, or even Nobel prize worthy, but I am able to throw together the written word pretty successfully. What kept me so engaged was the opportunity to point out (politely and under my breath) the errors in the presentation. In case you don’t know me, or haven’t noticed, I can be a bit…snarky.

I know the training was not geared toward older students/adults, and that it was a FUNDAMENTAL thing, but the Grammar Nazi (Grammar Bitch?) in me reared its ugly head so many times. Passive voice, infinitives, misinformation about sentence structure… I have a friend who is a GN as well. I picked up my phone to text her at least 6 or 7 times to tell her what was going on. I refrained. She’ll find out for herself when she has her training. Why give up the spoilers?

I don’t know this annoyed me so much. Maybe because writing is something I care about. I love to write–I have since I was young. I don’t share myself, or my thoughts and feelings well. I’m not a talker. I’m not one to open up. Give me a pen though and I can write it down and get it all out. Even turn it into a book.

No matter what happened at the training today, I have something new to use with my kids. Hopefully it’s a tool that will make them better writers, or think about what they write instead of just getting words on the page. Time to bust out my Writer’s Workshop binder and add today’s training into the mix.

No matter what your next training, may it be fruitful and give you the tools you need for your kids. 🙂



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Wow.  Watching the NYC marathon today was very inspiring.  I am a fledgeling runner who has never run further than 3.15 miles.  My best time is 37:00 minutes.  My love for running is almost non-existent.  I do it because it’s healthy, helps me lose weight, and is something I can personally do to reach a goal (no matter how small or goofy; like getting to the next stop sign, or not throwing up at the end of a 5k.).

Today I watched Tatyana McFadden complete the first-ever marathon grand slam.  A grand slam means that she won the London, Boston, Chicago, and NYC marathons this year.  A-MA-ZING.

Tatyana is a MD girl who was born in Russia and left in an orphanage by her birth family.  Her American parents adopted her, brought her to the U.S. and immersed Tatyana in a world of sports.  I can only imagine the training that went into her daily schedule for her to accomplish this feat.  Not to mention the tenacity and self-confidence that’s required to pull this off.  I’m now training for a 10k and I can barely get myself out the door, let alone feel good about it.

This is the kind of perseverance we try to instill in our students on a daily basis.  We are always encouraging our kids to stick to it, keep going; applauding their efforts, no matter how small they may be.  We also push them to be better than they think they can be.  Even as a special educator, I am very hard on my kids and have high expectations.  I had one administrator say that I almost come across as being mean to the kids.  I’m not, and I’m lucky the students know me better.  They know I want their best, I’ll do what I can to get them there, whether it’s tough love, or show tunes.

Handicapping conditions are no reason to expect any less from people than their best.  Physical handicaps, intellectual handicaps, or both, never underestimate someone’s ability.  We don’t know what any of us are capable of until we try.  Be an encourager to all, regardless.  Case in point…

Tatyana was left in that orphanage most likely due to her Spina Bifida.  She is now a Paralympian athlete, completing marathons in a wheelchair.  She’s won 4 marathons in a wheelchair.  That’s 26.2 miles x 4.  I teared up when I watched her cross the line to capture the grand slam title. Then I got off the couch, got dressed, and went for a run.  I am nowhere near marathon level, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give my little run the best.

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NaNo Begins Today!


According to Wikipedia, “National Novel Writing Month, shortened as NaNoWriMo, is an annual internet-based creative writing project that takes place every November. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30. Despite its name, it accepts entries from around the world. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing, no matter how bad the writing is, through the end of a first draft. The idea is that many people are scared to start writing because it won’t be any good, and if there’s a time to celebrate length, rather than quality, more people will write an entire first draft, which they can then proceed to edit if they wish.”

This is my fourth year doing NaNo (I won last year!), and I’ve never started Day 1 so late in the day.  It’s 1:30 and I’m just writing my first words.  I’m totally pantsing this year, as well as being a rebel, and it’s throwing me off my game.  I also hand write my NaNo attempts, and this year, I’m typing.  I miss my pens and my fancy notebooks.

I started this blog three months ago, and I’m woefully behind on the number of posts I’d planned.  The school year is kicking my butt and I can’t seem to keep up.  I have a blog planning calendar and planning layouts all complete, but I still am floundering.  So, that said, I’m trying to get this blog caught up.  That’s how I’m rebelling.  I really haven’t decided on a goal.  Probably should do that, considering it’s 14 hours into kickoff.  Do I want to do a number of posts a week? Month? Number of words per post?  I’ve never rebelled before so this is a bit unsettling.

I’ve even thought about hand writing all of my posts prior to writing them, just to keep some sort of sameness.  I’m not counting every letter, or word, or line.  It’s just weird, but I couldn’t imagine a November without doing NaNo.

So, I should set a goal.  There are four Tuesdays this month for my #POTW, and if I write a post every other day (OMG) that’s 15 days, bringing me to 19 posts.  As all special education teachers know, OCD and autism are contagious, and I can’t leave it at 19, so I’ll round up to 20.

Oh look!  This post is done!  Only 19 more to go.  🙂

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To Thine Own Self Be True


“Don’t post things that you think other people might be interested in.  Post things YOU’RE interested in.  True passion is infectious.” ~Ricky Gervais

I have a blogging calendar that I try to stick to for posts and the Pin of The Week.  So far, the POTW is the only thing that’s been calendar-faithfull.  I’ve fallen short on the posting thing.

It’s been a combination of time, topic, and me trying to be something I’m not:

*Time: Who the hell has time? I see all these awesome teacher websites and Pinterest boards and think, “Do these people sleep?! They must have laundry piled up all over the house.  I suck.”  But while I do think I’m lacking in the teacher-creative area, and maybe even guilty of not at least trying to have a Teachers Pay Teachers store, I can tell you that my laundry is caught up, I made homemade soup this weekend, taught myself how to knit fingerless gloves (OK, really not that difficult-basically just a cylinder), and got an early start to my progress reports.

*Topic: I found this one idea on, where else, Pinterest.  It’s a goal poster for teachers.  I scoped out other websites and lo and behold, other teacher websites had this as well.  OK then.  I’ll add it to mine.  Do you know how many weeks age that was?  JULY.  I keep putting it off, moving it around, ignoring it.  It’s all cutesy and stuff, and lets you know where you are in your teaching life, etc.  I know where I am. Procrastinating writing that goal poster on my blog.  But everyone else is doing it…

*Trying to be something I’m not: I’m just not cutesy.  Have you seen me?  Have you seen this blog?  I don’t do cutesy.  And there’s the problem.  Me trying to make this blog like all the others.  Do what everyone else is doing.  I’ve never fit in; why start now.  I need to remember that quote above, and stick to what I know best.  Me.

Given that this is Bully Prevention Month, we need to remind our kids of this very thing.  They need to know it’s OK to be them; to be who they are.  It’s OK to stand up for themselves and for each other.  It’s perfectly fine to be different from everyone else.

Sixth through eighth grades were the worst three years of my life.  I was picked on daily by both the boys and the girls.  I was called names, laughed at, etc.  I was different from them, and I don’t think they knew why.  Much of it was even mob mentality.  The insecure kids didn’t want to be lumped in with those being picked on, so they joined in the picking.

I adapted and coped.  I thought I was doing OK, until one day my mom told me she’d thought about taking me to Friends Hospital for a visit.  I don’t remember it being that bad, but maybe I was repressing.  Who knows, but what I do know is it got better.

We need to remind our kids of that, too.  It does get better.  Check out this site.  It’s geared toward LGBT teens, but the message is universal.  Or Google “it gets better” and you’ll have a plethora of websites letting kids know it’s OK.

Also, check this post out.  It’s Wil Wheaton (Star Trek TNG) telling a fan’s newborn daughter Why It’s Awesome to be a Nerd.  I wish I’d heard this when I was in middle school.

Always remember to be yourself, and to let your students see you be you.  Let them know it’s OK.  Tell them to be passionate about what they like and not to worry about others.  You should always be you.  Unless you can be Wonder Woman, or Tony Stark.  And if you are Tony Stark, call me.


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Teacher Stress…Causes? Solutions?


I saw a Tweet earlier today from @HuffPostEdu asking teachers about stress and what their districts do about it.  Only 5 people responded to the tweet, but the combined answer is a resounding “NOTHING.”  It seems as if nothing is being done at the distract level to help teachers relieve the stress of teaching.

What stress?  There’s no stress.  Just ask a non-teacher. Many think our job is a walk in the park.  If that’s so, I invite the non-teacher to Google stress support teachers (just as I did) and watch the plethora of hits that pop up.  Here are a few I found:

Teacher Support has a few good articles about the stress of the job and ways to handle it, including self-hypnosis and how to balance work and life.

Social Support and Work Stress Among Teachers is an article I found on  It discusses the causes and the impact of teacher stress.

My favorite is Teacher Stress by Ken Mrozek.  His piece includes a stress self-assessment, methods of stress management, common stressors teachers experience and even the 10 commandments for reducing stress.  I highly recommend reading this article.  I’m printing out a few copies tomorrow to leave in the staff lounge.

Speaking of my school, we have have a Spirit Committee that works to boost morale in out school.  It’s staff driven and includes activities like Secret Santa, holiday party, theme lunches, grade-level decorating the staff room in different themes.  We’re attempting to host some out-of-work activities such as bowling nights and a hayride. But like I said, it’s staff driven, not district driven.

What are the causes and solutions to your stress?  Does YOUR district do anything to help?  What would you like to see happen?  What do you do to make your day a little brighter?






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Pass the Paxil, Please


I am four weeks back into the school year and already looking forward to Christmas break.  I haven’t felt this overwhelmed by a school year in a very long time.  It’s disconcerting that after almost 20 years of teaching SpEd, I can get this rattled.  I’ve actually been working on this post for weeks.  In my head.  The stress and anxiety are always present and I’m able to keep the bulk of it at bay (mostly through denial and food) so I’ve been unsure how to address (confront?) these feelings in person.

For the last 7 years, I’ve had multiple grades.  When I was told I only had third grade this year, I was a bit concerned.  How does that work?  Only one grade?  Not running around like a chicken with her head cut off?  I wasn’t sure how to act! Well THAT didn’t last long.  Cue the stress and anxiety!

Also, for the last 7 years, I’ve shared a small classroom with one or more SpEd teachers and a few assistants.  It’s been something that’s worked quite well for us.  There were people to bounce ideas off of; an extra hand in all situations; someone to cover your groups when you had to pee.  Now, I would be housed in a classroom…a general education classroom.  I was to become (duhn, duhn, duhn) a co-teacher.  What the?  I’ve never been a co-teacher!  Holy crap!  If I wanted to be a general ed teacher, or in the general ed classroom, I would’ve gotten my general ed certificate.  I’m not dual certified for a reason! I don’t want to teach GenEd!  OK.  Breathe.  Administration knows how I feel and sent me to a workshop.  Workshops cure everything.  I don’t know why doctors don’t go to more workshops.  *To be honest, it was a good workshop and I’m glad I went.*

I have 11 students on my caseload.  That’s not really too bad, as many can be grouped by similar IEP goals.  These 11 kids are placed in 2 classrooms, not all four, so that I’m not running around to all the classrooms trying to see my kids.  So far, so good.  Not to mention that I’ve had most of these guys in PK, Kindergarten, and first grades, so I know them.  Then there’s Steve (name changed to protect the innocent). He’s new to our school, he is on the spectrum (so are three other students of mine-NBD as they’re my faves), he’s physically aggressive (I now have the bruises to prove it), and he gets 2.5 hours outside of the classroom per day.


Let’s break down the hours, shall we?  6.5 hours/day – 45 mins. for special – .5 hour for lunch – Steve’s 2.5 hours of pullout time – .5 hour intervention block – .25 mins. for recess = 2 hours for working with my other 10 IEP kids.  Oh yeah.  I feel really good about that.  And that’s if everything goes to plan.  If Steve has a meltdown…sorry other students.

Steve has adult support throughout the day due to his behaviors, among other things.  The assistant   I have, Joan (again, name changed), that works with Steve has never worked in the elementary school, only high school…two entirely different settings.  It’s like I have two students I have to manage.  Joan is an extremely nice person.  Would give you the skirt off her thighs if necessary.  She just doesn’t have a clue yet.  Not only do I have to set up Steve and two other students in the morning, I need to get her ready as well.  I realize it’s the beginning of the year and she’ll get the hang of it, but honestly…*sigh.

I know I’m probably rambling at this point.  I’m so tired.  All this is just the tip of the iceberg, as any teacher will tell you.  I haven’t even brought up the CCSS, the awful Student Learning Objectives (new teacher evaluation system), twice/month Extended Team Planning in the mornings, SpEd teachers covering other grade levels’ ETPs, once/month full team meetings on certain IEP kids, IEP and SST meetings…I need to just stop.  I’m annoying myself at this point.

I am at work an hour+ early everyday, stay late occasionally, and bring work home every night and weekend and I’m still not caught up.  All I do is run the halls like a crazy person, and feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for my teammates because everything else has me so busy.  I really feel like I’m letting them down.  I know people say that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  I don’t see it.  Unless it’s behind that train that’s barreling down on me.

I took a half of a personal day this Friday.  I’m headed to Ocean City, MD for their Sunfest.  I’m extremely fortunate that my parents live there!  By Friday 2:30-ish, I’ll be hitting the ocean air, the wine slushy kiosk, and my mom’s cooking, all in an attempt to catch a break.  Of course I’m bringing work with me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it while sitting in a sand chair. 🙂

To my fellow teachers who are overwhelmed, just remember to take a break.  Take care of yourself.  You are no good to anyone if you’re in Friends Hospital babbling about chevron patterns and DIBELS.  I hope you all have a school year you can look back on and say, “Yep.  I rocked it.”




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The First Three Days


Wow.  The kids have only been back for three days and I already feel like it’s been a month.  I feel overwhelmed and unprepared and far behind where I think I should be.  I need to keep reminding myself that it’s only been three days.

I look around and I see teachers who have their “stuff” together and seem to be rocking the year already, while I have a very blank lesson plan book.  I’m flying by the seat of my pants.

First day: I drove the entire way to work (11 miles) with a police car behind me.  All I (and every teacher) wanted to do was fly like a bat out of hell to school and get the rest of my room set up before the kids arrived.  Nope.  I had to creep along at 35 MPH.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I broke a nail.  I was so tired and frazzled that morning that I started the Keurig without putting my cup under the spout.  Then I lost my badge.  I hate that thing.

Second day: I had a wedding to attend that night and never got the chance to paint my nails.  Typically not a problem, right?  The wedding was three hours away.  It started at 6:00.  I work until 4:00.  Problem.  I dressed for travel and wore sneakers, forgetting I still had to paint my nails.  Luckily, the was no cop behind me that morning and I sped to work to arrive early.  I shut the room door, threw open the window and stripped off my shoes and socks.  Yes…I painted my fingernails and toenails at work.  For those of you tsk-tsking me,  I was on my time and not school’s, as I was there over an hour early.  So I had to run around and get my day ready in my bare feet and only using the palms of my hands.

Third day: Nothing much to report.  You know, typical Monday.  Feet dragging, mouths yawning, directions repeated several times, underwear found on the playground.  Yep…women’s neon green and black zebra-striped undies were found on the playground.  Ew.  Just ew.

I hope your first three days were are strange and frenetic as mine were.  It keeps you on your toes. Have a most wonderful school year!



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The Top 7 Blogging Mistakes To Avoid


The Top 7 Blogging Mistakes To Avoid –

As a beginning blogger who’s blog went live a week ago, this article was just in time!  I need to print this out and post it everywhere (or maybe just use it as my desktop wallpaper).

I need to really sit down and focus on my schedule. I hope to have a post every Friday, and I need to create visual calendar so that I have that reminder. I also need to write out my goal (or Mission Statement as my school calls it) and attach that to my calendar.  Essentially, my blog’s purpose is to communicate with other teachers, and to have an outlet for the happenings at school.  You know, a place to share and de-stress.  To help with organizing everything, below is a link to a blog planner from Beckie at Infarrantly Creative that I’ve found to be very useful.  I love that is has a place for Blogger to Encourage!

I also need to learn how to network.  I have many links on this blog to other terrific teaching blogs, but I feel weird asking people to promote my blog.  I think I’m afraid that I won’t have anything to offer, or that my postings aren’t good enough.  I’ll just have to be brave and tag all my comments with my blog address.  And honestly, as long as I like what I’m doing I should be satisfied.  Right?




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Teaching as Sport


Having recently attended a Phillies game, and with Eagles training camp beginning this week, I began to think about the similarities between teaching and sports.  OK, wait.  To be honest, I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that summer is halfway over and the first day of school is looming.  I know I’m not the only teacher feeling this way, so I thought I’d take a different approach to what we do.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • First Days Back- Those first few days, teachers return to classroom setup, meetings, and professional development.  We catch up with colleagues and get the lowdown on the coming year.  I consider this to be Training Camp.
  • Professional Development Days- On the handful of days that the students get to stay home and relax, teachers are briefed on whatever the county/district thinks we need to better perform our duties.  These are Mini-Camps.
  • 180 Days- As regulated by the state, these are our scheduled games; our Regular Season.   We must get these in, or be penalized in some form.
  • Snow Days- Ahhh….snow days.  Getting that call at 5:30 a.m. to let you know that you’re spending the day in your jammies on the sofa with your cat, your coffee, and your book.  That’s the best!  Until you have to make them up.  I think we could call these our Rain Delays.
  • IEP Meetings- You may never go to one, but for those of us that teach SpEd, they’re routine.  With so many people involved, the passionate discussions, compromising, paperwork, legalities…these are Contract Talks.
  • Nights and Weekends- We all do it.  I’m doing it right now.  Working on teacher stuff on our own time.  We’re devoted, perfectionists, procrastinators, crazy.  This is Over Time; although I also consider it a Personal Foul.
  • Finals- Teachers struggle, push, coach, cajole, bribe, encourage, and beg our students to do well.  These are the Playoffs.  Those last, important hurdles to leap over before the all-important big game.
  • Last Day of School- What else could we call the last day of school, other than the Super Bowl?

Don’t get me wrong, teachers love what they do.  Don’t let our complaining fool you–That’s just us blowing off steam.  Most teachers wouldn’t trade this profession for anything.  The majority of our days are run-of-the-mill.  Some days suck, but more than most are awesome.  Feel free to add to my list if you have other teaching/sport correlations.  I’m interested to hear what you come up with. 🙂

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