Sunday, August 2, 2015

#2getherwearebetter ALL THINGS BULLETIN BOARDS!

Why hellooooooooo there! I am SO stinkin' excited to be doing this link up with Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd ad Lucky Little Learners. They are geniuses and I can't wait to see what everyone does with their bulletin boards!

Picking a Background
I LOVE solid backgrounds on bulletin boards! I feel like they are clean, inviting and you can accessorize with LOTS of different borders. I also LOVE fabric. Now I know what you're thinking. "Soney, I'm a teacher. I don't make enough money to go buy yards and yards and yards of fabric!" 
I understand completely! I didn't start using fabric until my 3rd or 4th year of teaching because it is quite an investment and a big part of why I choose to use SOLID colors. I can switch up borders from year to year. There is NO WAY I am changing out my fabric from year to year and if I hang paper, I would have to switch it out every year because it fades. The money is worth the time and effort to me.

 So I haven't been able to get in my room just yet but will walk you through what I do.

         Step 1: Measure the HEIGHT of your walls.
         Step 2: Go to Hobby Lobby WITH your 40% off coupon!
         Step 3: Find ONE color of fabric you like.
         Step 4: Get way more than you THINK you need (you'll need it) but have the lady cut it to the   same height of your walls. So If I was doing a red wall, I would tell her that I wanted 12 yrds but cut into 3 yrd sections. I'll explain later about why and how this is helpful.
         Step 5: Check out WITH YOUR COUPON!
         Step 6: Repeat daily until you have every color you want.

Now, I know that seems like a lot of trips to Hob Lob and it is! HOWEVER, that is how you're going to cut down on the expense of buying fabric.

I get asked a lot if I iron or steam my fabric. The answer is no. I attach it so tightly to my walls that there are not any wrinkles in it.

Hanging your Background

Ok so remember how I told you to have the lady at HobLob cut your fabric to the exact length that equals how tall your walls are? Here's why. You obviously are going to be standing on a ladder, table, desk, chair, or something to get up to the top of your wall right? Well you don't want to worry about cutting anything so if you can staple your fabric to the top of that wall, let it hang down, then it's super easy to just staple and apply border! No cutting needed! 

Now, when I do this, I staple the entire top and then as I go down each side, I pull the fabric tight so that it doesn't have wrinkles. The best way to do this is staple 2-3 times on the left, and then 2-3 times on the right until you're at the bottom. In the even there is a little extra, just fold it under and staple. The border will hide it. 


Now I love borders! They are (normally) pretty cheap and a super easy way to refresh your room without the mega cost of doing something like fabric! I really like am obsessed with CHEVRON! If my husband let me, I'd decorate the whole flippin' house in anything and everything chevron. L.O.V.E. it! Anyways, last year, I decided to just order online some super cute chevron borders! I got WAY too much and have TONS in my back cabinet. I'm pretty sure I bought all of what Really Good Stuff had! 

Last year, our school theme was 'License to Learn' so everything had to deal with driving. So this was my bulletin board outside of my classroom.

This year, we are a western theme. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do yet but I'm thinking maybe a black background with burlap ribbon as the border. Maybe I'll get some bunting at Michael's and stencil on the words "Howdy Partner!" and hang it with clothes pins from some twine. I'm not sure what to do with my kids' names though...

So, if you have any thoughts, let me know! Do you use fabric? Do you love chevron as much as I do?! I'd love to hear your tips and tricks as well! Stay tuned for my entire room reveal on September 2nd!!!


Friday, July 31, 2015

I CHALLENGE YOU! #Beliefs into Action

Hi Everyone! 

I just love that Whitney at With Love From Texas, thought of this blog hop to do! What a perfect way to get my brain ready for school and centered on the kids! 

While in college, I was introduced to a quote that I just LOVE. Haim Ginott was a Israeli teacher that studied how to speak to children. He wrote a book called Between Parent and Child. His communication approach is amazing!!! Here are his ideas:

  • Never deny or ignore a child's feelings. 
  • Only behavior is treated as unacceptable, not the child. 
  • Depersonalize negative interactions by mentioning only the problem. "I see a messy room." 
  • Attach rules to things, e.g., "Little sisters are not for hitting." Dependence breeds hostility. 
  • Let children do for themselves what they can. Children need to learn to choose, but within the safety of limits. "Would you like to wear this blue shirt or this red one?" 
  • Limit criticism to a specific event—don't say "never", "always", as in: "You never listen," "You always manage to spill things", etc. 
  • Refrain from using words that you would not want the child to repeat.
How true is this!? So, my favorite quote from him really drives my beliefs. 

So, let me back up... When I was a freshman in high school, my cousin had a little boy. Immediately they knew something was different and immediately took him for testing. He was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The diagnosis was crippling and deafening for a lot of my family. I felt bad for my cousin as she thought she was carrying a perfectly healthy baby. The joyous revelation that they had another son was quickly ripped from them when she looked at him and saw that he didn't look 'normal.' It was heartbreaking to watch. I immediately knew that I wanted to help families dealing with anything that came with a child that had a disability. He is the reason I went into Special Education. He is THE most amazing kid in the world!  

I quickly learned my first year teaching Resource how true this quote was. My kids could tell how I was feeling, how stressed I was, how inadequate I felt, and more times than not, our time together was NOT beneficial AT ALL! How scary is that?! Looking back, there is no telling how many kids I screwed up or didn't teach them all I could because I let my crap get in the way of their learning! I believe ALL kids deserve an education and with a teacher that WANTS to be there and is always striving to be better. Hence my education beliefs were born and they are what I try and put into action daily in my classroom: general education or special education. 

I also believe that, we as teachers, must realize that we teach far more than standards. We teach compassion, tolerance, manners, etc. and most of the time we don't teach with our mouth; we teach with our actions. Kids are watching us AT ALL TIMES and we need to be cognizant of this and always be striving to be more.  

Well that about wraps up what I try to do and be as a teacher and why. Hop on over to 
Stevie Kampakou at Power Teaching to read her beliefs and how she puts them in action in 

#TexasSizeLinkUp #Back to School Organization Part 2!

Howdy y'all!!!

I am so happy to be part of the #TexasSizeLinkUp ! Isn't it the worst when you can't find something you need?! I love organization and love staying organized so that when someone pops in and needs something, I'm not scrambling! One way that I stay organized is my Teacher Binder and Back to school forms. My back to school forms are FREE on my TPT store and you can read my blog on it here.
Anywho, I NEED dividers and binders to keep it all together so my Teacher Binder keeps me super organized! I have so many different ones and its so hard to just pick one for the school year! It has my calendar, roster, notes, contact logs, birthday list, and TONS of cover pages to divide my binder into sections or use at inserts for different binders! Click on any of the pictures below to see it in my TPT store and enter the Rafflecopter below to WIN one of YOUR CHOICE!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What ways do you all stay organized? Leave me a comment below and don't forget to follow me for more ideas on organization! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Back to School Organization Tip, FREEBIE and Periscope Party Hop

Hey Everyone!

I am so excited that Lindsay over at Primary Polka Dots allowed me in on the Periscope Hop tonight! I loved hearing about everyone else's tips and tricks and hope you did too. In case you missed it, here is what I talked about...Organizing your data before the year even begins.

I don't know about y'all but as soon as I walk into school the first day with kids, I do not have time to be worrying about setting up my data binders! Ain't nobody got time for that right?

Image result for ain't nobody got time for that

So, before school starts, I have everything ready to go. I have created these little forms to track their reading throughout the year so that anytime anyone walks in to my room, I can whip this out and show them everything! So because I teach first grade, I wat to know where the students were at the end of Kinder. I want it all out on one form so that I can see who might be able to be grouped together for guided reading. Our district uses istation (ISIP), DRA2 and PAPI. I then mark whether or not they were below level. If they were below level, I then go to my AP and ask if they went through the RtI committee. 
So after I have all of that filled in, (I type the students' names before printing and fill the rest in by hand) I store that in the front of my ELAR data binder. I think it's easier to use these binders and stay on top of data when the cover is so cute. Does that help you too?

When I set my binder up, I make sure and grab the numbered dividers from Target, Office Max, Staples or wherever I can find them cheapest! They look like this but I get the set of 25 since I won't have more than 25 kiddos in my class. 
Image result for numbered divider tabs

Each student is assigned a number (alphabetically by last name) and all their data for the ENTIRE year goes behind it! Every time I do a running record, DRA, take any anecdotal notes, this is where it goes! Remember the End of Year Kinder form from up there^? I have the same thing printed out but ones for beginning of year, middle of year, and end of year of 1st grade. 

As the year goes on, we also do a monthly online reading assessment and I track their progress on one page also. This joins the End of Kinder, BOY, MOY, and EOY Assessment pages at the front of my binder.

 Now, when I go to an RtI meeting, or have a PLC about kiddos and comparing our data, I take ONE binder and it has ALL of my Reading info in it!

I do the EXACT same thing for my Math Data binder. The only thing that is different is my data sheet. In my district, we have 4 Math CBAs per year. So, I keep ALL of their testing data on ONE PAGE!!!! I do keep all of the CBAs in a different binder just in case anything is ever questioned but not in this binder. 

How easy is that?! Now. I have a few other binders that I keep as well just to stay organized. 
I must have an IEP and 504 folder. This SAVED my life last year. I had 20 kiddos last year and SEVEN of them when through a SPED eval. SEVEN!!!! That is a lot! So, this is where I kept all of that paperwork and evaluations, accommodations, schedules, etc. 

SST is my districts RtI committee. Since I had 7 go through a SPED eval, you can bet I used this binder as well to track all the interventions before we went through the evaluation. 

LLI is the Fountas and Pinnell Literacy Intervention that my district uses. I taught LLI and had 4 kids from other classes I was keeping data on for their teacher. 

So that is how I keep myself organized during the school year. It is crucial for me to prep it BEFORE the year even begins because there is no way that I have time to do it after. If you'd like to get started on prepping binders for your class, head on over to my TPT store for editable versions of all these forms and binder covers for FREE!!!

 How do you organize your data? I'd love to hear about it in the commets below! 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Who doesn't love The Kid President?

Hey y'all!

I was watching Hope King's periscope the other night about her classroom set up. She went over her inspiration wall with different quotes. Basically what she does is she has some great quotes framed above her board but they are all covered up at the beginning of the year. One by one, she reveals a quote and has the kids jot down what they think that it means! What a great idea, right?! So, I took that idea and I'm going to do that too. I have made several packs of Kid President quotes and put them up in my TPT store. Some have one set, some have two or three (color coordinating) and then there is a big bundle so you can get ALL of them. Each bundle has the same quotes just different colors. Isn't this such a fun idea?

I think we'll use it during our class meetings this year. We'll make a big deal about 'unveiling' them and then the kids won't be able to stop writing! Plus, who doesn't love The Kid President?

Anywho, once they are up and framed in my room, I'll upload a picture here but until then, hop on over to my store and find a set that works for you!

What are your favorite quotes to inspire kiddos?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Meet the Teacher Night FREEBIES!!!!


Ok so real quick I wanted to let you know that I have a FREEBIE up in my store tonight. If you caught me on Periscope earlier, I talked about a tutorial I saw over at Sharing Kindergarten on how to use Google Forms to streamline your Meet the Teacher Night paperwork. You can make your Google Form into a QR code and put it on this super cute half sheet for Meet the Teacher Night!

 Also, I included a form that I am going to use this year to decrease the 'conference line' that seems to form on that night. When a parent comes up and wants to talk about everything. under. the. sun. (ammiright?!) then point them to these little notes and a bucket for them to drop you a note. Make sure you make contact with these parents pretty quickly either that weekend or first day of school to let the parents know you appreciated the note and that you are on top of whatever their concern was.

Well that is about all I have so hop on over to my TPT store and download these for yourself!

Have a great night! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Walking in each other's shoes: Understanding the General Education teacher

PART TWO!!!! I'm so excited to be bringing this point of view to you for a few reasons. Like I said in part one, I often times did all of these things to my general ed counterparts and had a lot of apologizing to do once I went to gen ed this year and experienced it! I did a little research with my friend Leah from Rumsey's Roundup as she and I have worked together to serve several SPED kiddos in her gen ed room. 

Again, none of this is an attack on anyone but rather a reminder and maybe, a wake up call that we're all in this together (cue High School Musical song) for the good of the kids. So, here we go with part dos!

This year, my first year in general education, I had 20 students. 7 of them went through a special education evaluation. YES! I know! That is a lot! I had totally forgotten HOW MUCH PAPERWORK is required at the initial evaluation and I had 7. And was PREGNANT! WHEW! It was rough to say the least. So, it was quite a humbling experience and an eye opener to all the things I had done wrong or things I had been insensitive to when I was in SPED.   Don't make my same mistakes.

I will say, I felt like this is one that I was pretty good about especially when in a self contained classroom. It is crucial for the case manager to EXPLAIN EVERYTHING! It is better to give them too much than not enough. Some of the questions that need to be answered for a general ed teacher are: What is an IEP? What does that mean for me? What does that mean for my students? What do the accommodations look like? Do I provide them or do you? How are grades done? Am I responsible for some or all of them? If so, how many and are their grade adjustments? What kind of data do I need to take? Do you have a template or am I making my own? What is the expectation you have for them in my class? What is the para’s role in my room? Will they have a para? What if they don’t but I feel they need one? How much work is done on their own versus with assistance? How is the discipline handled? Is there a behavior plan in place? If so, how does it work? How is the student rewarded? Consequences? What if they have a behavior in my room? What I the protocol? 

Most times, SPED teachers have the paperwork before school starts, set up a time for us to sit down and go through EVERYTHING before the first day so that we’re prepared. Also, a lot of the time, SPED has had the student before so we need to be seen as a resource that a gen ed teacher can tap into. 

As a SPED teacher, if we want gen ed to ask us questions, we need to be open to them asking questions. Lots. Sometimes the same ones over and over and OVER! Ask how things are going in class. Ask if there are ways you can help. Be available to us if we need you. Simple as that. 

Our day is packed in a very different way than yours. If you pop in to check on a student, awesome! Please do not come in though to discuss IEPs, goals, parent concerns, etc. in the middle of my lesson. This throws my day off and we have a lot to get to. Shoot me an email and schedule a time to talk because I probably have things we need to talk about too and taking up 30 minutes of my math block is not the best time. Invite us to happy hour and chat. Not only will we discuss what needs to be discussed but we can build a friendship and that makes things MUCH easier to discuss when it's with a friend.  A lot of the time, SPED feels left out.
Also, if at all possible, if we could be included in scheduling the ARD/ IEP meeting that would be great. A lot of times we are told to rearrange everything to be there and sometimes we have other meetings scheduled, conferences, tests, etc. 

Don’t speak to us like we’re dumb just because we didn’t go to school for special education. Yes, you know a lot about a lot but so do we in a different way. We are open to learning but allow us the opportunity to learn. Give us plenty of time to fill out paperwork. If we dropped something off for you on Friday at 3:00 and said we needed it on Monday at 7:00, you’d be ticked. Give us the same professional courtesy and give us at least a week to fill things out. 

We have a lot of other students in our room too that we are concerned about: not just the ones with IEPs. Yes they too are important, but we have to make sure we are taking care of the typical kiddos too. So, allow us to be devil’s advocate in discussions because we are wanting EVERYONE to benefit in our class. We’re not being negative, we’re problem solving. We’re trying to figure out how to make this a great learning space for ALL students, typical and atypical. So when we talk about how behaviors are affecting our class or how much attention we’re giving to the student with an IEP, it’s not that we’re trying to ‘push them out more’ it’s that we’re trying to ensure that the typical students are also receiving the free and appropriate public education just as the child with the IEP is. 

Relationships at school are already hard enough. I'm really hoping and praying that as this school year nears, we can step into the other person's shoes, take a walk and understand where they are coming from so that ALL students can benefit. 

What are some of your tips that you wish your counterpart knew? Please leave them in the comments. It makes everyone a better teacher  person when we can show grace, empathy and most of all, respect to others. As Ellen says, "Be nice to each other."  #2getherwearebetter

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Walking in each other's shoes: Understanding the Special Education Teacher

Wow! Summer is flying by and with this whole Periscope whirlwind, my brain is racing more and more about everything school! I seriously can not sleep at night because of all my ideas! Anyone else relate to this?
Image result for Shut up brain graphic
I seriously wish that my brain had an off switch so I could turn it on and off. My husband thinks I'm crazy. I guess that's what passionate people do though! We OBSESS over every detail of what we do because we are passionate. Speaking of of the many things I am passionate about is COLLABORATION! I love to help others, lend ideas, get their ideas, and work together. #2getherwearebetter right? Having worked in Special Education for 5 years, and having my fair share of issues with general education teachers (typically  my fault), I learned A LOT. 

So, this is part one of two on what Special Education and General Education teachers need to know about each other and each other's jobs in order to collaborate EFFECTIVELY for the good of ALL students! But before I begin, let me say, this is not an attack on anyone; sped or gen ed. These are just some tips so that we can understand each other. 

So, here we go with some tips that SPED teachers wished you knew! 

When we as teachers compare students, it can be a very slippery slope. On one hand, we have to compare students to each other to see where they are falling in our class. However, when we begin to do this, we can fall into a trap. One thing I have seen in my district as both a special education teacher and as a 1st grade teacher is that our kids might look 'low' to us but when placed against national norms, they are not. Let me explain. We are not CCSS in Texas but do have our own state objectives that are very rigorous. Our district takes those standards and bumps up the rigor and the expectation for our students. So, a student in my first grade class might look 'low' compared to my district expectations but if they were to get a SPED evaluation, they would be on level compared to the nationally normed diagnostic tests and protocols. So, as a Special Education teacher, we need a general education teacher to look at each student against national norms and see where the student falls and make recommendations based on that knowledge. Otherwise it seems as if you are just trying to push difficult kids out of your class and into ours. 

We, as special education teachers know that we are not always available but we want NEED you to ask questions! We want you to know that we are here to help you and help you understand what all the paperwork is and what it means. We don't know that you don't understand or need help if you don't ask! PLEASE ASK! Also, with that, if you ask us a question in the hall, email it to us also. It is so hard to remember things asked of us in the hall or lounge or duty because we have 1,000,000,000,000,000 other things we are thinking about: 15 thousand lesson plans, schedules, behaviors, paras, paperwork, meetings, difficult and often delusional parents, sped coordinators, behavior specialists, and the list goes on and on. 

My first year in Resource I had 30  kids on my caseload. When I went self contained, I had 8-10. Most resource and inclusion teachers have 25+ and most have upside of 40 kids. All of these kids have individualized plans that WE develop along with the lesson plans that go with them. They don't look like anyone else in gen ed or in sped...that's what makes it an IEP-individualization. That being said, often times we don't have a planning period to do these things. Planning is often taken up by a behaviors, ARD/IEP meeting, staffings, etc. We don't have a 'master schedule' that we follow like the rest of the school does. If we can't figure a way out to schedule a planning time, we just don't do it. Most times we eat lunch during a lesson too. We manage paras and create their schedules, micromanage them and teach them everything we know because if we don't we have to clean up behind them. No offense to paras but it's our teaching certificate on the line since we're the teacher of record. 
We have paperwork like you wouldn't believe! Not only do we have all the IEPs to create on our own, data to take, training of other teachers, we also have to get with OT, PT, APE, Auditory/Visual support staff, Speech, Psychologists, coordinators, and parents to schedule everything. The last two years I was in a self contained class, we also took data on all students in SPED so that the district could receive Medicaid funding. That was a NIGHTMARE!!! Then there is the state assessment that is a joke that our kids are required to take. For many years in Texas, the SPED teachers created the test, taught the material on top of the child's IEP goals and had to turn in the data to the state. Heaven forbid you get audited like I did! Then you have even more to do! Then there is extended school year services and you have to prep 6+ weeks of work for them to do at summer school! All that to say, please understand if we forget something. Show us grace because after we have taught all day, often times getting hit, spit on, kicked, and slapped, we have to go home to our families and do that job. So, show us some grace. Please. 

One thing that I have been lucky enough to NOT experience is other teachers looking down on me. However, when I've spoken to other SPED teachers, they tend to get spoken to condescendingly as if they too have a disability. The amount of training that SPED teachers go through is EXTENSIVE. Generally, more extensive than the gen ed teacher. So, when you speak to us in ways that demean us or make less of our jobs than what they are, it infuriates us. Just as we don't appreciate you speaking down to us, don't do it to the kids on our caseload. Remember, they are your kids too and you need to speak to them in a VOICE that is age appropriate with WORDS that are developmentally appropriate. Just because the 12 year old functions like a 2 year old does not mean you or anyone should talk to them like a two year old. 

We need you to be positive. Please see the amazing gains that these kids experience and demonstrate instead of just seeing the deficits that they have. Everyone knows the deficits. Lots of times they are GLARINGLY obvious. A great teacher looks past the deficits and searches for the accomplishments. They look differently. You may have to look long and hard but please talk about the great things you see in them because often times, you see a different kid than we do. We want to hear about that! 
Be flexible with us and them. Often times they can't handle things but we are pushing them to try. We ask that you try too. Don't be afraid of them. They are kids just like the rest of the little people you teach. The way we react to them teaches our 'normal' kiddos how to respond as well. 

All in all, we need your support and grace. We are not perfect and we are going to mess up... A LOT. It is easiest to extend grace to you when we know we will receive grace as well. We truly are #2togetherwearebetter . 

Do you as a SPED teacher have some tips? What about gen ed do you want SPED teachers to know? I'd love for you to leave comments so I can include them in PART TWO: Understanding the general education teacher!

Thank you for all you do for kids across the world.