Friday, June 29, 2012

Ask Me How My Day Went

So, today was the second day of the ESY program. How did it go? I'll give you a play-by-play rundown.

(Today I was prepared with a keyring of Pec Pics rules, and an old cellphone... He loves phones, and I've been told in a letter from his classroom teacher that a phone is one of the few things that motivates him in school.)

8:15 am - Meet Billy's bus. Unbuckle Billy's harness and extract him from the bus, even though he is already pleading, "No school today!"

8:20 am - Billy spots the cellphone right away. I tell him he can hold it if he goes and sits in Circle time with the other kids. Billy goes and sits down happily. 

8:21 am... One of the other aides tells me that the phone should only be used as a reward for Billy. I tell her that I gave it to him this morning to try to ease him into the school day and get him to sit in Circle time.

8:23... Even though the phone has no service, when Billy presses a bunch of numbers followed by "Talk," he gets a recorded message. This amuses Billy. BUT, as he's messing with the phone, he is also listening to what the teacher is saying. He puts his name up on the board during attendance, answers questions, and I hear him repeating some of the words of the story the teacher reads. 

8:30... The speech teacher comes to work with the kids. One of the aides tells Billy he must put the phone away until after speech. Billy screams, and knocks over a book shelf. I restrain him in my lap. He somehow manages to kick down one of those hanging pocket charts, causing it to land on a little girl's head. The girl screams. Billy asks, "Again?"

8:40... Still restraining Billy, who is spitting on the floor and on my leg. 

8:55... Speech is over. Billy gets a break. I give him the phone and he sits at the back table and plays with it. He even eats his snack!

9:15... The recreation therapist comes in and announces that they will be tie-dying T-shirts. She passes out plastic aprons and gloves for the students to put on. When I try to put Billy's on him, he cries, "Jacket off!" 

9:30... We go outside to do the tie-dye. Billy screams when he realizes we're not getting on the busses to go home. 

9:35... I actually manage to get the apron on Billy, and show him how to squirt his shirt with a spray bottle full of dye. We do it hand-over-hand. Then Billy turns the squirt bottle around and squirts himself in the face! Of course!

9:45... After I've cleaned Billy up, he gets a break with the phone while the other children finish tie-dying. 

10:15... Time for Reading. the teacher explains to the students that she's set up three stations, and they will rotate through the stations. The first one Billy is assigned to involves copying down words that an aide writes on a white board. I tell the aide that Billy doesn't write, that his IEP goals don't involve physically writing (he's supposed to be working on typing, except we don't have a computer or keyboard of any sort) and that his regular school has sent over work station tasks for him. The aide tells me I need to do hand-over-hand with Billy. I try it. Billy screams and throws the pencil. I take him to another area of the room, give him one of his work station activities, and let him play with the phone after he finishes it. 

10:30... The next reading center involves decorating a paper T-shirt with stickers and Do-A-Dot markers. Billy takes the Do-A-Dot markers and starts enthusiastically decorating his T-shirt. I am glad that he's actually participating... until he calls the Pink marker "Drink" and puts it to his mouth! 

10:45... The final center involves sitting at a table and looking at a miniature book about the Olympics. Billy turns over his book and screams. I restrain him on my lap and try to make him pretend to read the Olympics book. The teacher makes us read it twice. 

11:00... The kids have some free time. Billy is given a small white board and dry erase marker. He draws on it, and then starts drawing on the large classroom white board instead. The teacher tells Billy not to do that. He screams and tries to run out of the room. 

11:15... Time to get ready to go home! I get Billy's harness and backpack on. Billy amuses himself by putting the cell phone in random places and then asking me to get it for him.

11:20... The principal or someone comes over the intercom and says that, because there's a thunderstorm outside, we are on lockdown in our classrooms until further notice. The busses are idling outside but we cannot put children on them. The children are going crazy. One boy cries because the mysterious voice coming from the ceiling has freaked him out. The teacher games with the other children on the carpet, but Billy does not understand, and continues to walk around with the cellphone, repeating, "Time to go home? See Mommy? Go home? Bye bye school?" He has seen on the schedule that its time to go home, and he's not sure what the big hold up is. 

11:40... Still on lockdown. I am physically blocking Billy from running out the door. 

11:50... The mysterious voice tells us we can leave. I tell Billy its time to go. He cries, "No go home! No go home!" Ugh!

12:00... I buckle Billy into his bus, and tell him I'll see him on Monday.

OK, dudes, any advice? Help! Monday is only 3 days away! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Miss Read Gets Her Butt Kicked By An 8-Year-Old!

Hi everyone! Today was the first day of my summer job as a 1:1 aide in an ESY program. Actually, yesterday was really my first day, but the kids weren't even there... it was just a training day... so it doesn't count.
Today certainly counts. 
Okay. So I'm placed in a classroom for 3rd and 4th graders with moderate to severe intellectual impairments. There are about 10 kids in there, including my little guy, Billy. There is one teacher, one classroom aide, and one other aide who is a 1:1 for another child.
The teacher is a high school teacher during the school year. She does work with high schoolers with special needs, but not anywhere as severe as the needs these ESY kids have. She has never worked in an elementary school. She has never worked with children with this level of intellectual impairments. So she came to school armed with plans for activities that would have been awesome, even perfect, for a group of typically developing elementary school children, or children with mild intellectual disabilities, or children with ADHD, learning disabilities, Aspergers, or just about any other children other than the ones in our classroom. But these kids, who only spoke in one or two word sentences, were ill prepared for activities such as that one ice breaker where you have a list of random traits, such as, "likes strawberry ice cream," and you have to go around the room asking everyone questions in order to match a name to each trait. So basically, the teacher had planned each activity to last about forty-five minutes, and each activity really lasted only about fifteen minutes. 
Meanwhile, there was my little Billy. 
Billy is a little guy with autism as well as an intellectual impairment. He needs a lot of structure. I don't mean, structure helps him. I mean, the poor little dude was flipping out all day because he had no idea what was going on! The ESY program is not located at Billy's home school, so he was suddenly in a different classroom with different teachers and different kids, and nobody was doing anything that he expected him to do!
In fact, for the first hour, poor Billy just kept on trying to run for the door. He wanted out! He kept pleading, "All done school! Bye bye, school!"
Finally, I got him to sit in my lap on a chair, where I basically physically restrained him for the entire morning. Billy didn't mind being physically restrained... in fact, when i tried to let him sit regularly on my lap, he took my arms and put them back around him. I think the deep pressure was relaxing to him.  I sat there with him and talked very quietly to him, rocking him from side to side on my lap, and he calmed down. 
(Oh yeah... it turns out he's supposed to have a weighted vest on for the first part of the morning, to help him transition. Except the ESY program does not have the weighted vest. Nobody does. It doesn't exist.) 
Eventually I was able to somewhat move him in the general direction of his desk, where I continued to sit and hold him. Any activity the class did, Billy screamed, "No!" Any activity I tried to do with him alone, he screamed, "No!" He refused everything, including snack, and including the Dr. Seuss book his mom had sent in his backpack!
And the worst thing was, although we had a visual schedule, the schedule became useless after the class blew through all of the planned activities within the first hour and a half. We couldn't even take them outside to the playground, because the temperature was 101 and they would have all collapsed. The teacher was great at spontaneously coming up with more activities for the class to do. Which Billy refused, of course. And since the schedule no longer existed, I had no way of even showing him how much time was left. I couldn't tell him, "We'll do math, and then story, and then home." He can't tell time, so telling him, "We'll leave at 11:30 meant nothing to him. All I could say was, "Soon!" So the poor little boy pleaded all day, "Go home?" and all I could say was, "After school, we go home."
Towards the end of the day, Billy did manage to do a few things. I took him for about ten walks. He was very good as we walked. He was calm, and held my hand, and decided which way we should go. (He said, "LEFT!" no matter which direction he wanted to go in.) He didn't try to run away, even when he spotted doors. And whenever we got back to our classroom, Billy walked right back in. 
He also liked writing on a small whiteboard. He would write the letter B for Billy, over and over. 
And he did accept a Nilla Wafer from the teacher, who was passing them out in desperation because she had really run out of activities. He must have been hungry by then. After he ate it, he asked sweetly, "Cookie again?"
Transitions and down time are obviously going to be very difficult for Billy. I asked the teacher for an individual picture schedule for him, although it won't help on days when the teacher is just making up activities as she goes along! I also asked the teacher to put a stop sign on the door. Not that Billy will necessarily obey traffic signs... but it might help! 
Meanwhile, I am exhausted.
It's going to be a fun month! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Does Your School Allow Class Pets?

Hi everyone! I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I absolutely love animals. I have two dogs and a cat, and I would have even more animals if I was allowed to where I live! I even volunteer for a pet rescue organization. So, whenever I envision my future classroom, I imagine having at least one class pet. And I don't mean a beta fish in a tiny bowl. I mean something that would really become part of the class. If I had fish, I would want an aquarium with several different fish, so that the kids could learn about fish and their needs, and how to take care of them. I've also thought of a guinea pig or a chinchilla, or a bearded dragon. I would love to have a bird. Perhaps a hedgehog. Or maybe a rat! Don't be grossed out... rats make awesome pets! Anyone who has one will agree with me. 

I even found out about Petsmart's deal where teachers can apply to get a free small animal for their classroom. 

However, I know that many schools now don't allow classroom pets, because of allergy issues. I almost feel like I want to ask the question when I go to interview... "What is your policy on classroom pets?" But since I can't afford to turn down a job offer based on whether they will allow me to have a class pet, I thought I'd just wait and see. In the mean time, I want to hear from YOU!

Do you, or have you ever, had a class pet? If so, what did you have? 

Does your school have a specific policy on class pets? 

Thanks for the info and opinions, everyone! I always like to hear what you have to say. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Job

I found out what I'll be doing this summer! I mean, I already told you I had found a job as a 1:1 aide for an ESY program, but today I actually found out who I'll be working with. A second grader named "Billy" who has an intellectual disability, in a class of 3rd through 5th graders with similar intellectual disabilities. I think he needs a 1:1 specifically because he has some sort of auditory processing disorder and gets lost in the shuffle a lot. I got to read some of his IEP, and his past teachers say he's a very sweet and cheerful little guy. So this should be fun!

I was never really planning to actually teach over the summer. I kind of thought that most ESY programs are taught by experienced teachers who already know the curriculum and know at least some of the students, and it might be kind of hard to walk into a summer school classroom and teach it for a month. I don't know. I just thought being an aide would be more manageable. But now I sort of feel sad because I'll be "just an aide." Having worked in schools a lot before, I know how some teachers view aides. I also know that, although I've met a lot of very educated and wonderful aides, I have also met a lot of aides who don't really have any qualifications or knowledge about education, except maybe that they have children of their own, and they often just stand around chatting and have to be "redirected" by the teacher. As a student teacher, I sat in on conferences where the teachers learned about how to manage their unruly aides and complained about them. For some reason the less qualified aides make up the stereotype, at least in schools where I've been. 

And let me just clarify... I am definitely willing and eager to follow directions and work with a lead teacher. But I'm worried about being treated like the stereotypical aide who just walked in off the street and was hired just because she is physically able to push someone's wheelchair around. 

But I suppose my best bet would be to just show them who I am, through my work, and let them see that I'm capable of more than just holding a little kid's hand to keep him from darting out of the room. 

Thanks for your help, guys! I'm glad we had that little talk!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good news and bad news

Good news: I got a summer job!

Bad news: It's not a teaching job. It's a teacher's aide job for an ESY program. 

Good news: At least it's in a school, and will give me more experience and references! 

Bad news: I have no idea what I'll be doing. They never even interviewed me. The job is with a special ed co-op in a neighboring county. It was not listed on Applitrack. Instead, I had to download a printable application that just asked for my name, address, and a few references, fill it out, and mail it in. Today they called me and said, "Would you be interested in working? Great, you're hired! Also we don't know where you'll be placed, but you'll probably be a 1:1."

Good news: Its only half days , from next week until the end of July, so even if it is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad job, I think I can handle it for 20 hours a week for five weeks. 

Bad news: It starts NEXT TUESDAY! That does not give me a lot of time to meditate, prepare, worry, and perseverate.

Good news: At least now I'll have something to blog about!

Bad news: But it probably won't be anything I prepare or carry out. I'll be taking instructions from a "real" teacher.

Good news: But I am a real teacher now, and nobody can argue with that! I got my certificate in the mail! 

I guess I'll just have to wait and see... something I am definitely not very good at. ::Sigh::

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My First Blog Award!

I've seen all sorts of blog awards floating around, but I never thought I'd actually get one. Apparently Miss L didn't agree with me, because she gave me the Liebster Award!

The Leibster Blog Award is awarded to blogs is awarded to a blog that the awarder enjoys reading, and that has less than 200 followers.
Well, I guess I qualified for that! I have 13 followers. And one of them is me.
Why am I following myself? I have no idea!
I want to thank Miss L for giving me my very first blog award. In case you don't know her, she began student teaching right around the same time when I did. Her passion is Whole Brain Teaching, and she writes a lot about what she learns. Even if you don't feel like totally switching to Whole Brain Teaching, there are a lot of elements of it that you may like to adopt as your own. So, go over there and say hi to her! All 13... er, 12... of you!

Here are the rules: 

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. Thank the giver and link back to them.
3. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

Okay. Now I must find five of my favorite blogs, which have less than 200 followers, to post here. I guess I shouldn't nominate Miss L, although she is one of my favorites... then she'd have to come up ith five more people!

1. First, a blog that is very dear to my heart. This particular blog is fairly new, although the blogger used to have several other blogs that I followed for years. Many years ago, Michelle adopted her first child, a kiddo from the foster care system who was about 8 or 9 at the time, The little girl had been through hell and back, and had gone through a lot of trauma, and Michelle worked as hard as she could to give her the stable, loving home she deserved. After her first daughter got a little older, Michelle started fostering more children. At one point she had six kids, including two toddlers and two teenagers... and all this while being a single mother! I read this blog religiously... I want to be a foster parent someday soon, and I will probably be a single parent when I do it, so this blog was very interesting to me.    The two toddlers, by the way, were Jon Dalton and his sister Torianna. They ended up staying with her for longer than any of the other kids. In fact, in 2010, after the children's birth mother's rights were terminated, Michelle adopted them! The following year, the family discovered that Tori had neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on the nerves, especially the brain and eyes. Little Tori had tumors in her eyes and in her brain. Earlier this year she had brain surgery to remove the brain tumor, and she is now going through chemotherapy to remove the eye tumors. Its been very hard on her. Michelle created a new blog to document Tori's fight. That's how Team Tori came to be. Its really Tori's blog, but she's only 7 and can't type particularly fast, so her mama does the blogging for her! Tori does contribute with videos and critiques of Dancing With The Stars! Go over there, say hi, and buy a T-shirt!

2. Next... another brand new teacher who did her student teaching at the same time as I did... Emily Brown! She formerly blogged at Circus Of Learning, about her student teaching experiences. But now she has a job as a 5th grade science teacher, so she's started a brand new blog called The Science Life. This is your chance to follow a new teacher from the moment she steps into her new classroom!

3. While we're on the topic of science, here's another science blog! Its called The Science Penguin.  If you're like me, maybe science was not your favorite subject in class... too much note taking and movie watching and possible chemical burns! Maybe you kinda dread trying to teach it to your own class. The Science Penguin makes it easier! Her goal is to show you how science can be fun, motivating, inspirational, hands on, and super educational... for your students and you! Check it out and get some ideas for next school year!

4. Then, there's Kara at Sped-Ventures. She teaches middleschoolers who have physical and cognitive impairments. Kara's blog is always full of interesting activities she does. Whether you teach younger children, typically developing children, or children with special needs, the hands-on activities Kara writes about will give you great ideas for your classroom or for doing with your own children! By the way, Kara has 128 followers. Maybe you can push her up to 200!

5. Finally, a blog I just started reading very recently: Fanny Harville's Unschool Academy. I know some teachers (and people in general) have very strong opinions against unschooling or homeschooling. If you envision homeschoolers and unschoolers as children sitting around the kitchen table reading Bible verses, you should read this blog.  Whatever your opinion is, in fact, you should read this blog. Its about two literature professors and their 7-year-old son. Peek into their window (or their blog) and you may find them reading a poem about trains to each other and discussing how the rhythm actually sounds like a train on the tracks, and comparing it to other poems that have the same type of rhythm; visiting museums, working together to build a raised garden and learning masonry techniques in the process, playing strategy and logic games, putting puzzles together, doing science experiments, learning a foreign language, and of course, doing a ton of reading! Many of their educational ventures are based on their son's interests in different topics. You'll love this interesting family! 

Alright, that's it for my Liebster Blog Awards! I hope you liked them! Thanks again, Miss L, for giving me my first award. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some Treats For Your Classroom Library!

Hi everyone, here I am again! One of my favorite things I've been doing to get ready for teaching has been working on my classroom library. I now own hundreds of children's books, and hope to acquire hundreds more over the summer. I want the children to read, and even borrow, these books... but I also want to be sure that they stay mine, and go with me wherever I end up going in the future. After all, I put a lot of work into building my library! 

I started thinking about getting some bookplates for my books. When I was a kid I used to have stickers that I put inside my books, and wrote my name in the blank part. However, these are hard to find now, and I am not sure I want to spend that much money for all of my books!

So, I've been working on finding free, printable bookplates. You can either print these out on sticky paper, or do what I'm going to do and just cut them out and paste them into books. This way, I figure I can print out lots of different bookplates, maybe even a unique one for each book! 

There are tons of sites with free bookplates out there. Feel free to do a search on your own, if you don't like any of these... I'm listing my favorites! :)

You guys all know Jan Brett, right? Well, she has free bookplates on her site!  

OMG, the PIGEON has a bookplate! You know which pigeon I'm talking about, right? The hotdog loving, bus riding, puppy wanting one?

Here are some customizable bookplates. You download them as a Word or OpenOffice document, and then go in and put your own (or somebody's) name in there. Pretty cool, right?

Cute bookplates made by a blogger at UrbanNest. My favorite is the owl one! 

Four cute little animal labels. Can be for books, cubbies, or anything else!

More cute little animal bookplates. Love 'em!

Nice owl bookplates. You like owls, right? 

Some lovely, inspirational bookplates. The quotes may go right over the kids' heads. Or might not. Either way, they're beautiful! has four sets of adorable bookplates! Two have different zoo animal themes, one has cats, and one has balloons. has these sweet cartoon animal bookplates. Can you tell I love animal themes? has loads of different printable bookplates. Most of them say, "From the home library of," which sounds sort of weird in a classroom, but its workable, right?

Aww, cute little bluebird bookplates!

Disney offers Alice In Wonderland bookplates and also Mickey Mouse bookplates, and some unspecified character bookplates. 

 Four different colorful bookplates: A stack of books, an owl, a caterpillar, and some flowers! offers some sports themed bookplates and back to school bookplates. offers quite a variety of bookplates, from airplanes (which they call aeroplanes) to dancers to dinosaurs to monsters. has some goofy bookplates you'll love! Actually these aren't specifically for books... you could use them for anything! has a few printable bookplates. There is also one for your lunch. They also have these printable labels that could be used for anything, including books. 

Here's a different one! If you ever like to give books to kids, as birthday or holiday presents... I know some teachers who do this... these bookplates allow you to write in the child's name and your name. So it would say, "This book belongs to Timmy, with love from Mrs. Jones."

Okay. Sorry this list isn't organized or anything. I'm really not too organized of a person. Also, one more tip... I read this one in Educating Esme. You may know this already. If you have lots of paperbacks in your children;s library, make the covers more durable by covering them with clear contact paper! I love the kind Wal-Mart sells because its so shiny, it looks like its actually laminated.

That's all, folks! Write back soon! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Teachers Do Amazing Things!

Hi everyone! I know we've been hearing a lot lately about teachers doing rotten things, especially to children with special needs. There have been several stories of parents who, after becoming suspicious that their kids weren't alright, actually "bugged" their kids with hidden cameras or microphones, and recorded teachers doing nasty things. A teacher in Alabama was recorded saying things to a child with cerebral palsy things such as, ""Keep your mouth closed and don't drool on my paper. I do not want to touch your drool. Do you understand that? Obviously, you don't." A New Jersey special education teacher was recorded calling a student a "tard," swearing at students,  and more. Another special ed teacher made fun of a student's weight, swore at her, and made her run on a treadmill for hours. A special ed teacher in Georgia physically and sexually abused students who had severe physical and cognitive abilities by doing things like groping them, purposely bending their fingers too far back in order to cause pain, and slamming students down into their chairs. A high school special education student in Georgia actually died after a teacher put a homemade neck brace on him to force him to keep his head straight, although this position restricted his breathing. The same teacher had also passed gas in the student's face and spilled him out of his wheelchair. There was the teacher who stuffed a child into a duffel bag as a punishment, and another teacher who sealed a student into a cardboard box. The stores go on and on! Stories on the Internet would lead anyone to believe that all teachers are eager to abuse the children who are the most vulnerable and the least able to report it. 
So, when I read a blog entry by a mother of a child with autism, I thought I'd "report" it here. 

Lexi, who blogs at Mostly True Stuff, is the mother of four children. One of her little boys has autism. Casey is about 8, and is a really awesome little dude. And he and I have something in common... we both love butterflies! Any way, today Lexi blogged about a very cool routine Casey's teacher has created for him. Three mornings a week, the teacher plays music, and Casey dances in the front of the class while his classmates cheer for him! 
(Obvious note: This would only work if the student in question is into it. I know most of the people who read this blog don't need that reminder... but since we were just talking about teachers who do stupid things, I thought I'd mention it in case anyone like that ever reads my blog. Its not a punishment. Casey loves it, his friends cheer for him, and it is a very positive part of his school life.) 

There is actually a video showing Casey doing the "Casey Dance." I didn't want to post it here, because I thought it would be cool for you guys to go over and check out the video here on Lexi's blog. That way, maybe you can drop a comment and tell Casey what a great dancer he is!