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

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 

My Husband’s Hands

I work hard. . . I understand that, I work more hours than I want to admit, I think about my students more hours of the day then they will ever know.However my type of hard work is different than my husbands. . I get up every morning I go to a place where I do my work, I work for *normally a set amount of time and I am able to come home, where I am again *normally able to then focus on being a wife and a cat mother.

Yes yes I am a teacher so I spend more than the amount of weekends than I want planning my lessons, and more of my paycheck then I would want on school supplies and clothes and anything else I think my children need. I have adopted 23 wonderfully challenging children into my heart. . but this is different than what my husband does.

When people here what I do I get “oo you have such a special heart. . . I could never do what you do. . . oh the patience. ” I am told over and over that I am making a difference in people’s lives. When people here what Mr. does it is normally Ohh that is soo cool, I have no idea how to do that. But no one tells him that he is patient or special and no one thinks about how he is changing himself, our family or the lives of people in what he does.

 Mr. makes videos, commercials and corporate videos for retreats and Church’s and all sorts of videos that most people don’t see that are made for companies and bride’s and any one else that can afford them.

These videos are made for demanding clients who completely disregard something called a work week or that Mr. has a wife and a life outside of their :30 second video. They expect him to work until 1am on a Saturday and get up on Monday and do it all again.

And he does.

He listens to their complaints, changes, he does what they want even when creatively he completely disagrees. He works 5-7 days a week anywhere from 8 to 10 to 12 to 15 hours a day. Sometimes he eats dinner with me and heads back to work, sometimes he lays down and waits for me to fall asleep and sneaks away his computer to see what the client has decided now.

So who is more patient? Me who deals with adorable children, who yes have significant special needs and sometimes bite, hit, kick me or spit in their backpack for fun, or in my face. But they are still 8 years old and adorable and when they are done they turn to me and say, “I am sorry Ms. Kelsi.” and when I come back in the room they light up and say ” I am so glad you are back.” and they mean it they love me just as much as I love them.

Mr. he pours his whole heart into his work he finds something beautiful in every painfully corporate project, and when the client yells and changes something they approved for the 15th time he sighs and does it. He doesn’t get the hug and the I am sorry. His clients don’t love him, they are thankful for his return. So to me . .. he wins the patience award.

And even if his clients aren’t happy for his return even if they don’t see his dedication as the most diligent patient work they could get. . I do. I am inspired by his commitment his love and his beautiful work everyday. He makes videos come to life in a way I never could, and he sees something beautiful in every video even when it is painfully dull.

And he deals with adults. .. which come on we all know can be so much worse than children.

So just remember that I may have “such a special heart” so does everyone else, it just comes out a little differently.

❤ 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

Becoming Ride or Die For My Students

Maya

When I began my residency, during the summer courses we spoke for hours about how to form relationships with students of all backgrounds and the importance of developing these relationships from the beginning of the school year. Everyday, I left partly confused how could you not form relationships with these students? How could someone enter into a classroom and not leave changed, molded a little bit by each and every student that they work with? I later have come to realize it is possible for some, but not for myself and for this reason my entire philosophy of teaching stems from this idea. That each student in my classroom will leave changed by the relationships and culture I foster and that those connections will push them academically and socially long after I am their teacher.

In one of my graduate courses this year we were introduced to Jeff Duncan-Andrade and the term, Rida’s while I had heard this term many times before in music and popular culture I had never heard it in relation to a teacher- student relationship. Duncan-Andrade describes the relationship like this,

“They risk deep emotional involvement with the majority of their students and they are sometimes hurt because of those investments. The depth of their relationships with students allows them to challenge students and get notable achievement and effort.” (Duncan-Andrade, 2007)

This deep emotional involvement is something I want to wear on my sleeve; I want my students to know that I am willing to take a risk for them, so that they will be willing to take academic and social risks for me.

This year I have been fortunate enough to make a deep connection with two of the schools most challenging students. These students are too young to have a predetermined path in life, they should understand that people care about them and want them to succeed, however for these students that was not the case. They believed that they were the “bad” kids and they were destined to be arrested or worse. By fourth grade one student understood the inequities of the world that I am still uncovering for myself. Through bonds I took months to build and develop with these students, they not only knew that they could come to me but that I would fight for them when needed and tell them the truth when necessary. I can remember on many occasions telling a crying student in the hallway, “Who is this hurting right now?” and walking them back to class, because that action was not taking away from their teacher but it was hurting them as a person. When a student knows that you care about them, I believe you can be more honest with them, and instead of shutting down the student will be more receptive to these requests. They will take an emotional risk for you because of the investment you are making in them; students will not take a risk for no reason.

I don’t want to form relationship because that is what you are supposed to do in order to be a successful teacher I want these relationships because that is how we grow. As humans we make connections to one another that push us to be better, or hold us back, we cannot live in a solitary existence no matter what sort of relationships you make they will shape you as a person. I want my students to come into my classroom and form the type of connections that push them to grow. As we grow together through the year these relationships will be something that form me as a teacher as well as forming the people my students will become. As they grow up they will become people who form this type of relationship with others because I formed one with them.

In order for the bonds I build in my classroom to continue to make a difference after the year is over, students have to learn to create these relationships with each other as well. The friendships that students build with each other in my class will cross cultures, languages, disabilities and more to create a community where each student feels valued and supported. Through creating these friendships between each of my students, and hopefully my students and other students throughout the school and the city, my sphere of influence will grow exponentially. Many of my students have more than one factor, working “against” them when it comes to forming lasting relationships, often they are from different backgrounds than their peers and have one or more disabilities that may cause them to look or act differently. In order to become truly an agent of change in the district I want to begin to break these barriers down and show that though some people may need something different, that if we all work towards our goal each individual can succeed. This year I was able to work with the Affective Needs classroom, often these students were talked about by adults and teachers as “those kids” and they were rarely included in school or classroom activities. In the spring we fought to create a dance number and perform it twice in front of the entire school at the talent show. The students were able to hear the cheers from the crowd and give high fives after and to just be kids, as opposed to “those kids.” This small step allowed a few barriers to be broken down with their peers they began to form relationships based on shared interests rather than animosity based on the differences. People will never become blind to the different colors, cultures and disabilities my students have but by creating relationships with them these things can be seen for the value and not the differences they represent. As students grow they will become the people that set the standard for these connections, they will be able to dictate the type of bonds that are made with people of varying backgrounds. I can only control what is in my arena to control and influence but the more students I come in contact with the more I can create change, long after they have forgotten the rules for lattice multiplication.

In order for my students to be able to make the most impact possible I need to be able to push them academically as well. The achievement gap between students with disabilities and those without continues to be staggering not just in our district but also across the country. In order for my students to become my extra arms to influence the world I have to show them the value of their education as well. The idea of rigor has been something I have struggled with throughout my residency year. I wanted to push my students to make connections, to learn more and understand the intricacies of each text genre that we studied, to be able to put their words into writing but I was unclear of how to make this process rigorous for them. During my final lead teaching experience I decided to implement a writing block during our group sessions, each week the students completed a constructed response question and throughout the week they would reflect on their writing, edit it and ultimately assign a grade to their writing. At first students would give themselves a perfect score even after numerous conversations we had about things that could be improved in their piece of writing. Through open conversations and one on one meetings with each student by the third week they were able to truly become critical of their writing and think about what they wanted to change in the future. This task had become rigorous in thought because the student was not only thinking of completing a task at hand but looking to the future and how this task could help them as they continued to grow as writers. In one of my coaching conversations I received feedback that students were not afraid to have these one on one meeting about their writing with me even if it wasn’t their best work, and that students were comfortable having a differing opinion as me when it came to assigning a final grade to their writing. When a student in 4th grade can come to a teacher with a well developed argument regarding a grade they are becoming prepared to have difficult, professional conversations throughout their life. They will not only have to argue for grades, but jobs and other advances their entire lifetime, and these skills will last long after they have forgotten what the R in the RACE strategy stands for.

As I look both behind me through my residency year and into the future of what I will become as a teacher, one thing is clear I want the skills and connections my students make in my classroom to outlast the small academic victories they have. These skills will push their academics they will continue to grow and to close the achievement gap when they discover these things about themselves. These risks will be rewarded with grit, empathy, resilience, optimism and more, the life skills of a successful person and will lead to academic success as well. I want to create well-rounded students and students who want to challenge the status-quo. To say it is not always right simply because it is the way it has always been done. Like in many cases Maya Angelou said it best, “ People will forget what you said, will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I want to make my students feel that they are the agents of change; they can create a difference in the world if they set their minds to it. And I will do that by showing my students that someone truly cares for and believes in them at school, that when they come to school someone is happy to see them. I will roll up my sleeves and get to work being a Rida for my students.

When you force me to choose- I fall decidedly into “Person of Color’

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I came across this article this morning on my way to 6 am yoga, ok no not like while I was driving but when I was in the parking lot trying to get up the courage to go inside, this is a daily occurrence at yoga.

I found this article and was immediate sucked in, it was like my soul mate the other half of my thoughts was living in Washington D.C teaching middle instead of Elementary school and had the wire right into my brain. I read every word and then took the brave move and shared it on facebook, now this is something that I normally reserve for cute videos of animals and occasionally  selfie of my new hair do, but never politically posts. . . I mean never. I am an avid facebook debate watcher. . but never a participator. But this spoke to me in a way that I cannot express.

Today is another day that you force me to choose which race I am and every time you make me choose I fall decidedly in Person of Color, I am a privileged person by any standard, not from the upper class but solidly privileged, I never had to worry about food at night, I was always feed, and had any opportunity that I wanted I played club volleyball at 2,000 dollars a year for 5 years. I graduated undergrad with zero school loan debt, and when I wanted to apply for a 30,000 dollar grad program my mom said, “Ok we will make it work.” I fully understand my privilege.

But I am also half black and this is the part of me that people see, this is my first impression, the black girl, I will still be greeted with the “You are such a white black girl” and ” you are really well spoken, where are you from.”

I will still be looked at differently when I walk down the street in a predominantly black neighborhood, or a white one, whether I am alone or with my very very white bearded fiance.

So I am privileged and I am black, that is the race I am forced to choose, I am forced to check a box over and over to choose my race. And this decision has been made more and more important in light of recent events, I can feel the pain of my students, when they run to me, and only me, the only black teacher at their school to tell me that Johnny called them a Nigger and that is why he punched him and got suspended.

I cry at night for the boys that I know that are already understanding the systematic movement from a general education classroom, because as a black male, the are more scary to their teachers when they get mad,

Because no matter how easy I had it growing up. People still view me as  a Black citizen, I am a statistic, my Black father walked out on us and left me with a single mother, I grew up in a town full of KKK members,I attended a good university and have move easily through life.

Some people want to attribute my failures to the color of my skin, but they also want to give my skin color my successes, I also got into that school because of affirmative action,  I only got that job because they needed to meet some arbitrary quota.

So if being black gets my successes and my failures, what do I get? I get to support the feelings of the rest of Black America,.

If this i the case I must choose being a Person of Color. And I must try and force all of the people around me to see the feelings the VALID feelings of this entire race of people. They cannot be swept under the rug, and turned into only a reason for violence. They cannot be labeled as Thugs and criminals for trying to express themselves in the only way that they know how, because they have been systematically taught that no one will hear them when they speak. They have not been taught the proper way to communicate, to debate, to speak on a politcal framework, because there is no one there to teach them, there are people there to shuttle them through 12 years to get them to the street or prison. To create a culture of Thugs.

So as an educated, privileged, BLACK women, I believe I have to, I have to say I choose you! And because someone taught me how to have these conversations because I was allotted these things from happen chance of birth, that I was born to a white single mom in a state where my color was subtly scoffed, and not openly punished. I have to take the time to stand up and say I hear you, at the very least I hear you!

Please Please Take the time to read the original article. she just wants you to listen. . . that is the very least you can do.

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/29/dear_white_facebook_friends_i_need_you_to_respect_what_black_america_is_feeling_right_now/

❤ Kelsi Rae