Sunday, November 12, 2017

A New Perspective

It has been said that I have a very good memory. The problem is, I typically remember things that seemingly have no significance whatsoever. One of these memories is when I was in the fourth grade and my dad was helping me with my math homework. I can remember sitting in the living room in this old blue chair that was my homework spot when I didn't want to sit at the kitchen table. I was frustrated with division! That is when I turned around in the chair, put my feet up into the air, and let my head fall upside down. As my dad is Charlie Brown teacher-ing me division, I think to myself "The living room looks so different like this!" Everything is the same and yet it is not the same at all. Everything looks familiar- there's the couch, the coffee table, the lamps and yet it was like I was looking into a different world. This memory is very vivid in my mind.

This summer I had the opportunity to teach ESY (Extended School Year) services. I was placed as the High School Severe Disabilities teacher. I was excited for this new opportunity and looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone. It's true- I got out of my comfort zone and honestly it was so different than my year round teaching gig it didn't even really feel like work. I was at a different school, had different ages of students, new paraprofessionals, and experienced working with a new population (Moderate vs. Severe).  There were a few similarities: I was teaching around the same content, doing crafts, cooking activities, and songs I had sung before but overall it was like another planet.

When we came back to school in September and I got to get back to work with my doodles (for some this will be the third year in a row with good ole Miss. Rose), I had a brand new perspective about it. They are the same students, same classroom, same content, but it all looked different. Just like how my living room looked from upside down. Everything in my classroom was still there but yet it was rearranged some way in my mind. I saw how much my students have grown in the past two years, and not so much on what I still needed to teach them. My students are following two step directions, walking in the hallway with their peers, hanging up their coats, sitting in a group, finishing tasks without hand over hand assistance, washing their hands independently, some are READING- I could go on and on bragging about the abilities of my doodles.

Progress in my classroom is slow and steady. My new perspective this summer helped me to see my class in a whole new light. To keep raising expectations, to continue teaching skills they will need for the rest of their lives, and to keep believing they can accomplish so much more than any label puts on them!

May sunbeams find you!


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Why

Wow! It has been exactly two years since I last got on here. Since my last blog post two years ago I have gotten a job with a public school system in rural Virginia as an elementary ID (Intellectual Disabilities)-Moderate teacher, and I have officially earned my Master of Education in Special Education Adapted Curriculum K-12. So short story short- I have achieved what I started in September 2013. Hooray! I have arrived!

 At a faculty meeting at school two weeks ago we were talking about our "why". For me, there are about a million reasons why but one stands out bigger than the rest- THE SPARK. The thought crossed my mind last night, as I walked into my house and thought, 'I cannot sit down or I will not get up. And if I don't get up I won't get a shower, or brush my teeth, or take my makeup off, or eat'. So I kept going. This happens to me many nights. As a special education teacher I feel like I give everything I have to my students almost every single day (except that one where we watched Trolls- but it was a half day and we were eating breakfast then lunch and it has such a good message. . .anyway). Every single day I leave my classroom I am more often than not exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. And if I'm not exhausted I am jumping off the walls from either caffeine or sugar. I can't say which is worse. Why do I do this?

Then, I think back to student teaching in a Kindergarten classroom in 2011. I left exhausted, but I also left defeated. I was crying tears of frustration, hopelessness, and selfishness. Towards the end of my student teaching experience I didn't care. I hated even the idea of teaching and if I ever stepped foot into another classroom it would have been too soon. Flash forward to 2017 and I have been teaching for 2.5 years. I try to give my all every day because I LOVE what I do. I have a spark. A spark that tells me this is exactly where I am suppose to be. That I am making a difference.

I want to give my students the best education I possibly can. I want to make school a happy place. I want to raise my expectations so high they have no choice but to reach them. I'm not going to limit them but what an IEP says. Or some online info about various disabilities.  I'm not going to accept mediocrity. Most importantly I am not going to let them down. I am their teacher. They have a right to learn. A right to be exposed to all of the math, reading, science, and social studies in addition to the functional, adaptive, social, basic and general life skills. I'm here to do all of those things.

So why am I a special education teacher? It may be exhausting but it's a good exhausting. One that tells me, "You did it! You did all you could today! Doesn't that feel good?" And it does. It really does.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oh Boy!

Oh my! Oh boy! So, after a week of no school (thanks to President's Day combined with lots of snow) I think I've forgotten what my students look like. . . Just to remember what I do for a living, and to avoid cabin fever, I thought I would take a second to reflect on my favorite times this year so far.

As I have a classroom full of boys, I have had to tackle and quickly learn the world of cars, Minecraft, BeyBlades, TechDecks, and Pokemon (totally had ZERO idea that Pokemon still existed)! I have also had the pleasure being a part of some very funny difficult confusing interesting conversations. Many of which have left me either speechless, cracking up, or shaking my head saying "Oh boy!" (sometimes all three!). Some laughable tidbits:

All of my students at one point or another: "Ariana Grande is soooooooooooo beautiful!"

Student A: "I'm not getting a job when I'm older- that's what I'll have a girlfriend for".

Student B: "Miss. Lindsay, I am pretty sure you forgot to brush your hair today. You must have overslept".

Student A: "Do you shave your legs? I do not want a hairy teacher".

Student A: "Miss. Lindsay, can you do that thing where you close one eye and keep the other open?"
Me: "Winking? Why, are you trying to learn so you can wink at girls?"
Student A: Oh NO! I am not that kind of guy!"
Student D: "I AM!!!!"

(As I am putting chapstick on)
Student A: "Miss. Lindsay, what is that?"
Me: "Chapstick. Because my lips are dry. Don't you use chapstick?"
Student A: "I don't need to. I shower."

Student A: "Miss. Lindsay, what's a virgin?"
Me: . . . silence. "Umm, uh, ummm, well. . . Let's go ask Mr. James!" (the school counselor)

Oh these kids never leave me with a boring day. On Friday (over a week ago. . . or month. . . or year- THE SNOW HAS GONE TO MY HEAD!) as the school week was winding down, I sat in my classroom with my students watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (since we couldn't have recess outside), singing, drawing, and just basking in the calm that I had helped create for the day. It's rare when these moments happen. Even rarer when I have enough time to sit down and think about how lucky I am to have this opportunity. To be something to these kids. Because they will probably never even know just how much they have changed me forever in such a short amount of time.

May sunbeams (and snowflakes) find you!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Please Snow- I am a Teacher!

Holy snow! While we didn't get a blizzard, we got enough snow to have THREE days off of school!!! And being in Virginia: snow=no school.  Although I am liking this unexpected vacation, special needs students really do like their routine and consistency. The weather, however, does not seem to understand this. As much as I am liking living in leggings, cozied up on the couch with hot chocolate, and watching Food Network, I am mentally preparing myself for the next day back to school. Preparing myself because for kids who really do not respond well to changes (cue: Speech Day Meltdowns).

I am preparing myself for either: 

1) Cabin fever boredom- meaning they have been so bored at home these past six days they are so excited to be back learning will be a welcome change; or 

2) Can't Stop Won't Stop the Non-learning- meaning they had a lot of fun over the break (playing video games I'm guessing) and if I try to teach them anything, I am going to be met with resistance. A LOT of resistence. 

We shall see! It could be either! I'm preparing lessons that were meant for Tuesday of this week filled with a "Beginning of the Week" style plan. Which means WAAAAAAY overly planned lessons that most likely were to overlap onto the next day/week/two weeks. That's if they are in the mood to learn.  . . I am also planning "Solar System Jeopardy", "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Uno", "Time Bingo", and "Junior Monopoly". For some reason regardless of the content I am trying to teach or review, they have no idea they are learning if I put it in a game. MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Whew! It's Friday! The Friday of a three day long weekend on top of that! Woo hoo! Happy Dance! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! (It will not get out of my head). . . I think I've expressed it correctly but to be clear, this teacher is really excited it is Friday! It was just an odd week. I felt like everyone was a little off. It wasn't a bad week by any means just a little different. Still. . . I am glad it is Friday!

Every day, I try to write something down that made me laugh. I will compile them all some day, but for know they are post-its or scribbles in my calendar. This week, one of these comments really got to me. Being able to determine what my student know varies based on the day, hour, and minute. Some times they know everything (really! The things these students can recall astounds me!) and other times. . . not so much. I was asking one of my students what they knew about energy. I asked if he has ever heard of the word "kinetic". He said "No". I asked if the word "potential" sounded familiar. Without even pausing he said, "Potential. . . what a beautiful word!". He has no idea what it means, he just liked how it sounded. This in itself was just beautiful to me because without even knowing the meaning of the word, he appreciated it.

Potential is the word that comes to mind every time I think of my students. Not in the sappy, big dreams sort of way, but in their everyday actions. They all have SO much potential. From academic things like being able to tell the time, to remember the order of the planets, to be able to write a poem, to edit their own work and get their ideas on paper. Potential for mastering functional skills like not having a meltdown when they have to stop their "screen time", or saying "I want to kill myself" when they get a question wrong when we're playing jeopardy. Potential is a beautiful word that is endless. Every time we're in the middle of a meltdown or a tantrum I have to remind myself that this is opportunity for improvement. This is something we can work on! There is potential and room for so much growth!

Even on the oddest/off-est of weeks, there is potential! There is always potential.
(But I am still glad it is Friday :) )

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Another Unexpected Special Education Discovery!

Day to day, week to week, I am discovering so many things I was not expecting. I knew getting into this field that this would be the case but the differences I am finding still make me shake my head and ask (or cry) "Why?". Recently it is the unkindness I have been experiencing in my classroom. I have implemented the "Caught You Being Kind" Jar, in which every time I see a random act of kindness I add a marble. When the jar is full, we earn a movie and Ice-Cream. As simple and "old-school" as this may be, it has been working. . . with CONSTANT reminders and reinforcements. Is it too much to ask my students just be kind to one another without me rewarding them?! The short answer. . . YES! Right now, that is too much to ask.

In my graduate classes we went over numerous times spreading acceptance and embracing the differences in our special needs students. We learned different things to say and do to other students within the school to help educate the general education students and make them aware of various disabilities. It is difficult being in a special needs school, as it is not educating individuals without disabilities, it is educating students with their own disabilities about other disabilities. I always thought in this environment maybe students would feel like a team and avoid making fun of one another and making inappropriate comments. But that is not the case. It happens here too. We are trying to enforce empathy and understanding in our students in relation to their peers. Some days I am so happy when I see a positive interaction between two individuals that was not happening before. Other days, it feels like I am walking up a down escalator. It’s a challenge, but my goal is for  all students, regardless of their disability, to have respect and empathy for those around them. But most importantly for them to just be nice! 

A jar, marbles, and ice cream party are not going to make my students kind consistently over night, but the tiny bits of progress I am seeing are enough to make me realize it is possible. 

Next adventure: Interrupting! 


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Right Here and Now

"Yep, I was right, it's an alien." My roommates from college are cracking up if they are reading this I'm sure. It's a long story and an inside joke from my student teaching days. All of those many moons (4 years) ago. Basically to us it's a funny story but something that also means: I was positive about this. I am seeing it. I know what it is. But yet, I am completely wrong. It has been a while since I have reflected on anything. This occurred to me in an assessment class I'm taking in which my professor stated, "You do not need to do the reflection that is on the syllabus". I blurted out (without even thinking): "Noooooooo! I love reflections!". Later on I clarified and told my professor it was okay about eliminating the extra requirement, I could reflect elsewhere.

That got me thinking about how little I have actually sat down and put to paper (or computer), or processed it in my brain what I have experienced teaching so far. Sure, I talk about my job to my family, friends, and boyfriend, but have I actually reflected upon it? No. I have not. But I think I need to. I have a JOB! I have had a job since August! Hence, why a blog has been at the bottom of my list.

This job has been very exciting. I work at a school for students with a range of disabilities. If I had to go back in time, I would definately NOT take three grad courses on top of my first year of teaching, but it's all been worth it. All of the late nights, tears, vent sessions, caffeine, lack of social life (and showers) has so far made me feel like I'm doing something important. Not just because I am devoting so much of my time to my classroom and learning about everything I possibly can to help my students, but because I just feel it. Sure, there are days when I think, "I am teaching them nothing!" or "I could do so much more!"but all in all I can say I love what I am doing. I also think I'm doing a pretty decent job (ask me again around VAAP season and I will probably cry).

I have experienced so much so far! Things I cannot really share on a public venue such as this, but it was definitely things I never anticipated. I was right, it is hard. I knew it would be (see previous blog posts for my realistic understanding of the world of special education). At the same time, I am discovering in this field, you can know SO much but at the same time, know nothing at all.

Accepting that I cannot control my students' lives at home, trying to understand their struggle day in and day out, and figuring out how to get them to do anything without a Matchbox car has been a challenge. The unexpected events I NEVER thought I would encounter as a teacher were also a wake-up call about the way that world is. And how little I can do about it.

So, my goal and focus thus far has been something I learned in the beginning of this semester of classes. I do not know where I read it as I have gone through countless books, articles, and resources but it is to remember to "See the whole child, not just their behaviors". This little reminder has gotten me through some tough circumstances. One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Fred Rogers. It is complied in the book, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember and located on page 53. It reads, "Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now".

This so beautifully explains my day in and day out with the students I work with. That is all.