Amazing Things!

I have tried to explain what it is like to work with people with autism many times. I have tried to explain the beauty and the struggle, the different way that they see the world and the ways that it makes me a better person to have them in my life.

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Here was my post for Autism Awareness Month Last Year.

I have tried to make people love them and care for them like I have and every time I seem to come up short. I do not have autism and how can I expect to explain what the world is like for them when I don’t truly know.

Explaining differences in learning styles to children is something that can be done really well or really poorly, children are fairly flexible and welcoming if they are just sat down and explained things if they get the chance to live life with someone that is different then them they will come to understand the differences in people aren’t bad or scary, but can be beautiful and help to teach us so many new things about the world.

But often times as adults we are scared to talk about the differences, we have grown or been taught to fear the things that make us different, to look at the kids that learn differently then our own and to put them in a box as “abnormal” we pick out differences to make us more comfortable, to find our place. But that leaves us to afraid to talk to our children about the beauty in the world, the beauty in uniqueness and how to be a friend through it all.

In comes Amazing Things Happen, a beautiful video made to show kid things from a kid perspective to help understand students with Autism. I would love to show this to inclusion classes at the beginning of the year and have a discussion about all of our differences.

It shows the ways to be a friend and the way that you can grow together!

Take the time, watch it ,spread the word because when we work together,

Amazing Things Happen!

Here it is!

-Rae

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How Do I do this again? The Scheduling Nightmare that is Sped Life!

I did this last year, right?

I made a schedule for myself, the students, paras, it had inclusion time, academic service minutes, and everything else you could ever need. .. like you know lunch breaks. On it right?

How did I do it again? How did I make a schedule that fit all the grades schedules, so I am not pulling from any non-negotiable times so that students still feel like a part of their class? But are also getting the academic and speech, and behavior, and OT times they need in order to be successful? Did I give my para’s meaningful work to do not just busy work right?

How? How did I do this? Did it really get done or did a magical scheduling fairy appear and do it for me and then wiped my memory clean so I felt like I did it myself?

I would take a magical scheduling fairy right about now because I am on draft four of my schedule for the year and I just feel like crying! How in the world is it all going to get done in the time allotted? How?

Other people in the sped world, do your in-service days get destroyed by the beast that is scheduling as well?

How do you do it? What makes your schedule run well? Or do we all wipe our memories clean after this every Spring so that we are crazy enough to do it again every Fall?

If you have a formula that works and doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out or your eyes go crossed from staring at your spreadsheet all day. .. PLEASE let me know!!!

-Rae

Must Have: Read, Reread, Write Strategy for Older Students! **Freebie**

If you are like me you are always looking for easy independent work for my struggling students, to reenforce strategies we work on in reading group. I have spent hours searching the internet for a reading comprehension packet that was both appropriately scaffolded; but also contained grade level content for my students that need work on their reading comprehension. Every time I could find reading fluency packets, or reading comprehension packets that were way too hard. Or I was stuck with packets that were appropriate but had content for younger students. So after attempting to piece together other peoples comprehension strategies and finding things that actually worked at different grade levels.
 I decided to make one myself.
Enter, Read, Highlight, Reread, Write!
During guided reading groups I use re-reading and color coded highlighting for my reading comprehension groups all the time.  I have found that this ensures the students are reading the text multiple times and also helps their brain locate and remember the important details to include in a written response question.
Many of my students that struggle with reading comprehension are able to immediately recall details and facts about what they have read but are unable to locate it to use in a written response answer. They have not been explicitly taught memory strategies to help them locate and recall important details after a delay.
For many students, explicit instruction is key for improving skills and independence.
These packets are placed in my student’s independent work stations so that they can practice these skills outside of guided reading group instruction. I have used guided reading time in order to teach and enforce the reading, highlighting, rereading strategy so that students are familiar with the strategy prior to independent work time.  These packets include both fiction and nonfiction texts and help build scaffolded study skills and reading comprehension strategies for students while utilizing grade level content.
As students become more familiar with the strategy I may include texts at their instructional level and request that they use a written response question to identify the key points to be highlighted. Effectively increasing their independence and working towards removing the scaffolds I have in place.
Because once they are independent they can use this strategy for ANY text they are given in order to identify and recall key details.
Here is a preview of the second-grade packet, I hope this strategy proves as valuable for your students as it has for mine!
            
This NO PREP preview will be available for FREE on my TPT store, you can find that here, www.teacherspayteachers.com/store/my-spedtacular-special-heart , so that everyone can try this strategy out, then full reading comprehension packet will be available soon, organized by grade level for easy use!
-Love Mrs. H

Let’s go back, back to schoooll!

How many teachers change room every year? This is my first year having to change classrooms over the summer and it has me spending my days dreaming of classroom decor! How will I set up my space, my tiny space! How will I use the walls to enhance student learning and of course look cute!

In my old classroom I had both a sign language and braille alphabet hanging up on the walls, they were there for students in my classroom to understand the differences in how some of our students communicate. I had one student who was blind and wrote and read in braille, the braille alphabet helped many adults in our classroom to help teach him. The sign language alphabet sparked more thought and admiration from my other students than I could have ever imagined. I would find that students would stare at the hands the shapes on the wall, studying them much more than they wanted to study their letters on the page in front of them.  When students were unsure of their answers they would stare at those letters and sign their answer instead of saying it out loud. I loved the discussions about sign language we would have and the ways they grasped onto it as a form of communication.
So now as I am moving into my new classroom I wanted to be able to display these two languages again for my new students, to see the ways that the visual representations of language help students grasp onto language in a way that letters don’t for them.  In order to show these languages and also save some space since my wall space is very limited, to achieve both of these things we came up with an alphabet that contains all three! And here it is!
 
These visuals will be displayed as part of my word wall in my classroom! I am so excited to be able to use them as conversation starters and as visual cues for language for my students.
I can’t wait to do a “classroom tour once my little room is all set up! I can’t wait to show you the ABC’s in their . place and our little speech/OT corner.
We share a room in my school myself, Speech and OT. Speech and OT are online services at my school,  we are in a remote location and this is the best solution to still meet our students needs. I want to create a classroom that really shows a shared space, so I am developing a speech and language area, complete with posters and speech and OT visual cues. So that my students feel connected to more than just their instructors and the computer, I want to create a classroom experience for them.
 
I can’t wait to set these up so that the students remember that they are using multiple parts of their body when they are speaking. That they are active participants in the activity and that it involves more than just their voice.
These back to school set up ideas are available at
teacherspayteachers.com/store./my-spedtacular-special-heart
I can’t wait to share this year with you!
-Mrs. H

I live for the good days!

 

I live for the good days, they may be few and far between and of course they never come for the whole class, over even two people on the same day. But whenever 1 person has that rare, beautiful shining day it makes the terrible days. Which of course come for every single student on the exact same day.

The days when you are not sure you are going to make it through the blow after blow that come from seemingly all directions when all the kids are having break downs over the fact that they are not at home with their dog or because I won’t let them eat the glue cap or the marker or the magnetic letters, Hell because I won’t let them eat anything except food, or because god forbid I won’t let them eat lunch after taking only 5 pretend bites and pouring your milk on the floor so you could avoid drinking it. And yes these are all reasons that we have had break downs in the last TWO weeks.!

But goodness gracious on the good days they are full of love and sweetness, when you can see them light up after learning something new, those are the days you know for sure you are where you are supposed to be.

I know, I know but how do you get through all of those bad days, holding out for a good one? Because those good days are like the perfect good morning hug, the full body, arms around your neck, feet off the floor kind of hugs. If you can’t get through all the bad days waiting for one persons good day this job probably isn’t for you, because hell those breakdowns come multiple times a day and the good days come much much more rarely.

Today was one of those days for one of my students, she has not had the easiest transition back into school, well really she has been the reigning “Queen of the hotmess” in our classroom, full of breaking eye glasses, spitting on teachers, throwing chairs and a whole hell of a lot of “fuck you Ms. Kelsi’s” but today on week 3 day two she had what we like to call a GREAT day! A day where her entire behavior chart had smiley faces, and that thing is broken down into 15 minute periods so 26, 26 15 minute periods and she was a great listener and kind friend through all of them!

You know what happens when you have a GREAT day in Ms. Kelsi’s SpedTacular classroom. You get to pick the dance at the end of the day, of course she chose the “Whip Nae Nae” you get about 15 hugs an Ms. Kelsi is going to tell everyone that will listen that you had a great day. Because my lovely little Queen of the hot mess you deserve to know how well you did, and better believe you just gave me the “good morning hug” feeling and I need to hold onto that as long as possible. Because who knows what Week 3 day 4 is going to bring!

My life is Spedtacular!

Welcome to Spedtacular Me! I am a special education teacher in an elementary school, I teach in a self contained classroom my students by definition have an intellectual disability of some kind they range in ability level and disability about as much as as they range in personality. I love being able to spend my life with them and I frequently share quotes on facebook and I have been told they are people’s favorite updates so here I will share more specific stories about my students, their lives, their disabilities, how other people perceive them and of course my life as well. I am working on writing a book about this topic so I will share some pieces of that as well. Welcome to my world.

 

Happiness Is A Snow Day!

Happiness is a Snow Day!

A day when you woke up planning to, give that test and finish those literacy lessons and fix my CLO’s before my unscheduled observation

A day when you suddenly have no plans at all

A day when you wake up without an alarm at 5am to check if Snow Santa has dropped enough white beauty onto the streets to cause the Superintendents of the world to allow us and the children to stay off the street.

A day when you get to turn off your alarm and sleep until your hearts desire. . .but normally you are so excited for the free day that you can’t even go back to sleep and now you are up an hour before your normal school alarm would go off.

A day when you get to trick your pedometer into thinking you have completely changed professions by walking 1000 instead of your usual 8,000 by dinnertime.

A day for you. . completely off the books, a day of Netflix binges and bad food,

A day that I hate to break it to your children, we, the teachers need it so much more than you do.

From Denver with Love, Enjoy Your Snow Day!

 

<3Kelsi Rae 

To Be Seen.

Today I met a man named Gus, Gus had a light in his eyes and blue coat and ratty white hat, he was standing beside the Conoco barely making eye contact with anyone but expectantly watching every car that drove into the parking lot.

He was the guy that people see walking up to them and instantly get defensive, hide that last bit of cash they have in their pockets, avoid eye contact, make a quick shuffle back into their car. They guy in the parking lot that no one truly treats like a guy at all.

And there he was walking up to me as I started to pump my gas, and I was no exception I ducked my head in my car hoping he would pass by. Then I heard,

“Excuse me miss, sorry to bother you.”

So I spun around and met him with full eye contact, finding a man with the tiniest shimmer in his sad eyes, his eyes that said he would rather be doing anything than standing in that parking lot asking me for a few dollars.

He told me that he was staying in a motel, (which are strung every few feet around this part of East Colfax, a motel every block full of strung out junkies, children, dogs, people trying to get on their feet, and even a few hookers. He stated he was staying at one of these motels, with his 8 year old twin daughter, daughters that don’t but could have easily gone to my school.

He told me about his ex wife, and how they are all crammed in the one hotel room, he told me about the hotel with cheaper rooms down the street but that he didnt want to move his daughters again, and through all of this yes.. he asked me for money.

I didn’t give him any, mostly because I didn’t have any. But I did spend more time than the other people around talking to him, I did look him in the eye and learn his name. I did ask about his daughters and talk about the difficulty of getting to school everyday. I did take the time to see him.

And as he walked away I told him, “I am sorry Gus I hope you get the money for the room.” He simply looked over his shoulder and said, “We will.” I laughed and said, “Hopeful.” He simply replied, “Always.”

This man who has so much more to deal with and so much less to deal with it with than I do, this man that walks his daughter to school from the motel and then goes to his part time job that doesn’t pay them enough money to eat and sleep in the motel every night so they have to choose one or the other. This man was Alway’s hopeful.

This reminded me that even if I can’t give everyone money, and I wouldn’t want and can grant them the simple act of being seen. Just to make eye contact and remind them that they are truly human and worthy of my time, we so often seem to step on and over these people, assuming that they are lower than we are for the circumstances in their life.

Gus helped me commit myself to seeing more people not just looking at them but truly seeing them.

❤ Kelsi Rae

That Ghetto School. . .

“I am not sending my baby back to that ghetto school.”

Says the black mom of the two black sons whose first names literally start with Mister and Sir, followed by regular old first names, no hyphens, no spaces, just Mister(Capitol Letter) name, all one word. Ravene Simone would say that she would not hire those boys simply based on their names. This Mom in her gorgeous red wig with her 3rd baby daddy sitting next to her, she tells me she “don’t want to send her babies back to the ghetto school 6 blocks up the road.

And when she says ghetto she means, Black

This whole conversation came up because her son will soon be exiting out of my intensive needs special education classroom which will result in a possible return to home or neighborhood school. This Mom would rather keep her son in a classroom that is academically holding him back and socially labeling him, ‘different’ then send him back to the other school, that is literally 5 minutes away.

Now lets be clear, I am NOT knocking this mom, she is looking out for those babies, when her son qualified for my class two years ago his siblings were grandfathered into our school so they could all stay together. Our school with the high performing test scores, the funding, the 30% free and reduced lunch, and the white students. Her sons get all of the privilege that comes along with that.

I am NOT knocking this Mom, I am knocking the system where the majority of the minority or low income students at my school are MY students, the ones who get placed there by the district for my programing, the students whose test scores don’t affect the school anyway. I am knocking the system that makes this mom tell her kids that school where all the kids go that look like them isn’t good enough. I am knocking the system that make this students brothers teacher want to push them back to their home school, because he is the problem child in her class.

In the 1960’s this school, in this neighborhood where I work was the center of a desegregation case in front of the Supreme Court. Bussing went in place, riots were had, an overwhelming number of the White students in the district were moved to suburban schools. In 1996 the bussing decree ended and students went back to attending their neighborhood schools, but the white students did not return. The majority race in my district is no longer Caucasian, but you wouldn’t know that in certain schools, the 30% are highly concentrated, in schools like mine.

So now over 40 years after the Supreme Court ordered that we all “get along” and at least go to school together, what has changed?

Well if you ask that Mom to tell you about that ghetto school down the road, you will learn. . . Not Much

Kelsi Rae

Why getting married two weeks before starting my career totally rocks!

So I got married on August 7th, this year and then exactly 10 days later I started my teaching career most people think this sounds like a super fast turn over and I should still be relaxing by the beach with my new husband not spending my nights pouring over IEP’s and schedules and student work while my husband is at home. However I am so grateful that I made both of these transitions within a month of each other.

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  1. My husband is totally amazing! He has sat up with me while I was almost in tears over an IEP I had to write in 24 hours… my first IEP by the way, and then let me cuddle up next to him to make myself feel better
  2. I came home today to a CLEAN house, he works from home and used his time to clean the house, so instead of coming home to the same mess that I left I got to come home to a sparkling house.
  3. I have someone to bitch to about everything that happens throughout the day even when it is totally unjustified he will nod and agree and tell me that it will all be ok.
  4. I don’t have to worry about being the best first year teacher I can be, AND dating, and honestly I am so excited to never have to worry about dating again, and that is the best.
  5. I missed the Tinder time of dating, Ben and I frequently joke about “wait which way is yes, swiping left or swiping right?”
  6. I get to feel like such an adult I get to be married and a full fledged teacher, I am officially in a new stage of life and I will get to look back in 40 years and remember this time with that same man and look at how much my career and marriage has changed.
  7. And Ben gets to be there with me every step of my “adult” way.
  8. And most of all, I get to come home to my best friend every single day, I get to drink a beer with him, I get to brew beer with him, I get to watch him grow, we get to grow together, we get to be together and I couldn’t think of a better way to start this new stage of my life.

❤ Kelsi Rae