All the things I didn’t know teaching was. . .

 

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When you decide, hey I am going to become a teacher, you think of the little smiling faces, the children, you think of reading lessons, you think of addition and subtraction, you think of hugs and bubbles in the hallway, and watching little people grow up into bigger people

In my case I even thought of the terrible behavior, the hitting, spitting, cussing, and crying. I thought of the ways I would have to teach them things that most students learn inherently, they ways to speak to each other. The ways to treat people with kindness and communicate your wants and needs. All the ways I would help the world see my students for the wonderful people they are. I thought of all the things that I would teach my children and the things they would teach me. I did a residency year so I had been in the district for over a year already so I think I was more prepared than other new teachers but I still walked into that first year as a teacher only to be blown away by the things I did not expect. . .

  1. The politics, the teachers union, the disagreements with the district, the school board, the superintendent and the instructional superintendent’s.. . all the politics Teacher-meme-05-political-view-on-teaching.jpg
  2. Speaking of politics, why was my worth, my salary, always up for political debate. I was not prepared to be so frustrated with people who have never taught or in some cases even been a student in a public school continually telling me that my job was worth less than I was already receiving. Essentially telling my students that they are worth less
  3. The nights up thinking about my children, wondering if they got dinner, whose house were they sleeping at tonight. Did student Z get to speech therapy on time? Did student J make it home on the bus okay? The amount of time outside of the classroom that I spend just worrying about them.
  4. Also that fact that I started calling my students, “my children” I have no biological children but every year I gain a few more of “my kids” and I will do everything in my power to know I love them just that much.
  5. The amount of work I would do outside of the classroom, that wasn’t “teaching” I was prepared for the weekly staff meetings that for a special education teacher, rarely, were applicable to my teaching life. But I was not prepared for the hours spent at home researching the new teaching styles, ways I could reach a difficult student, ways I can improve my teaching practice. The hours that I was not worrying about my students, I was  planning for my students.
  6. Being a boss. . . so this may be a little unique to the special education world but I walked out of grad school and into supervising 12 students and 3 paraprofessionals full time. Now I knew I would be supervising these three paraprofessionals and I walked in with their beautiful schedules in hand ready to kill it at being a boss. But then relationships happened. . . and I realized that I was managing one woman who had been a para almost as long as I had been alive, one girl who got the job because her aunt worked at the school and had never worked in special education before, and one girl, my age, who wanted to be an art teacher. How could I offer advice to the woman who could have been my teacher? And I quickly learned that the other two would be more drama than the students. . . It took me a few months. okay, maybe a year to figure out the balance of being a friend, a boss, and a teacher. . . okay maybe I am still working on the balance but we are figuring it out.imgres.jpg 7.How much I would live for the good days! I wrote a blog post about this earlier explaining in detail how much a good day can mean in the special education world. The smallest things can make a huge difference because, without the little things, there would be so many reasons to stop being a teacher. But with the little things, by becoming excited when Suzy read 5 words correctly today when last week she only read 3. Sharing the joy with a student when they didn’t hit anyone for an entire day, and then an entire week. Cheering as a student begins to speak more clearly, or communicate their needs in any way.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Now, these little things may look different in a general education classroom but they are still there, all of the little things those students bring to your life, the reason that we think about them at night. The reasons we care about them, the reasons we continue to do what we do. When the politicians tell us it is not worth it when the salary means you cannot buy a house in your own city when you watch little people have to deal with things no one should ever deal with. Remember the little things, remember why you started teaching think back to hugs and bubbles in the hallway, think about the smiling faces and when a student accidentally calls you Mom. Because no matter what things come up that we didn’t expect these are the reasons I am a teacher!

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This is an Instagram post from that first year teaching when we were celebrating one of those little things!

Watch Them Grow with Growth Bins!

Hello from “Teacher Summer”. . . where we spend all of our days drinking margaritas and lounging on the beach, while we laugh at our friends that are still working. And we never spend our days in teacher trainings or anxiously trying to plan how to move classrooms in two days before the students come, we never start back to school planning in the middle of July right? No, no that would mean we work during the summer. and that could never happen. . .  right?

Now Welcome to Real Teacher Summer where at least part of our days are spent thinking about, planing and anxiously awaiting next years students, and if you are like me, you are trying to get some of your back to school planning done on those amazing free days you get. Enter my new multi-syllabic word flash cards!

This year I am  moving into a new position and as a result I am going to try something new. I have been teaching a self contained special education classroom for students in 3-5 grade for the last 3 years. This year I am going to be teaching intervention and resource room students with mild to moderate disabilities in grades K-12. Yep K-12 terrifies me as I think, how will I meet all their needs, how will I put students in groups, how will I help students in such a wide range succeed. Then I found a blog about IEP boxes, you can read the original post here, http://www.thebenderbunch.com/2016/06/iep-tubs.html

She was using these tubs as she called them for an elementary classroom, actually a self contained classroom but I thought this could help with some of my anxiety and allow me to hit multiple students in multiple grade levels during overlapping times and still be working directly on their goals. So this summer I have been building these boxes. I am going through each students IEP goals and finding different activities to hit these goals and still keep students organized. Within each student’s box will be a classroom timer like these ones.  Which I guess are really kitchen timers I got on amazon for 14.00 for a pack of three.
Many students will be working independently on fluency or in partner pairs with another student or myself of an aid. They will be using these timers for self timed, math work, fluency work, or just to set a timer for how long their independent work in their My Growth Bins. For some students the time .set on these timers will grow throughout the year so they can increase their independent work time, for some students it will simply be a way to keep them on track.

The actual work inside each bin will vary depending on specific goals for each student, many of my students in the middle grades are working on fluently reading multisyllabic words, and so I created easy to copy and use flash cards, for these students. These cards contain 2, 3 and 4 syllable words and are scaffolded to included words broken down into syllable and ones that are not in order to help reinforce the strategies students learn to read these words fluently, and then allow them to show growth.

 Here is an example of the flash cards broken down into syllables. I have these hole punched and laminated for easy reuse from student to student.

The students other work varies from math practice, to social skills, and WH questions, and reading fluency and comprehension work. All work that they are able to complete independently for the first 10 minutes or last 10 minutes of our group.

Each student will have a bin that is color coded, without their name on it, this helps some of my older students especially feel less self conscious about the work they are doing. They are able to focus on their own work without being worried about having their name and therefore grade  or age attached.

I use the color coded system in all aspects of my classroom from data binders too graded work and displayed work for multiple reasons but this is a big one. Future blog posts on the color coded life to come!

I plan to use these during overlapping time for each grade level, the way my schedule is set up there are a few minutes where I will have a variety of grade levels in my classroom at one time. This allows me to easily progress monitor goals, make sure that they are working specifically on goals and increase independence. If you are looking for a way to help your students reach these goals please check out my “Growth Bin” products here, http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/store/my-spedtacular-special-heart

You can download the multisyllabic words flash cards for FREE here http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/store/my-spedtacular-special-heart

And follow me on Instagram here @my_spedtacular_special_heart_    for more spedtacular ideas!

I hope you find something helpful to use with your students, whether finding a way to differentiate in an general education classroom, a resource room, or a self contained classroom all students need something a little speducatular!
-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.

 

How #Lucie is Light changed my life.

So up untill 2 years ago I had never even heard of the band Gungor, and then I started going to Bloom, a church that they founded, and to be honest I was quite proud of the fact that I had never heard of them before, I was proud to be the person going to church for church and not for the off-chance to meet a celebrity.

Ok I have to be honest it was pretty cool the nights that they would lead worship, we would get to sing their songs as a congregation and it was like a min-concert. I fell in love with Lisa Gungors voice when they would sing I would find myself hoping that she would sing more and more. But aside from that I never really jumped on the Gungor band wagon. I never bought any of their music, I never listened to them outside of church and when they held a concert I didn’t feel the need to go. But they were cool enough.

And then they had Lucie. . . their second daughter who happened to be born with down syndrome and the way that they handled that birth and transition was one of the most loving and God-Like things that I have ever witnessed. They made it clear that they were initially heartbroken, this little girl they held was not the little girl they had imagined for 9 months and probably longer, your dreams and visions for their life have to be altered (You can read more about that here http://www.gungormusic.com/blog/2014/10/lucie-is-ligh) But they also discovered something in her, something that is so pure and wonderful that radiates out of their every picture of her and story about her, and mostly from their new song. Light.

Light is on the Gungor’s newest album, One Wild Life, which is also one of my favorite and most played albums now, I sincerely hope everyone will go out and listen to it now it is beautifully done. But Light is gorgeous. .

They found a perfection in the imperfection, they were humbled and shocked, and in love with this little girl, who by all standards was DIFFERENT!

As a Special education teacher who watches parents handle the nuances and challenges of having a child who is by all means different and the way that they handle these things in varying manners, This realization was something that I clung too,

Thought I have never officially met the Gungor’s I have seen them from across the basement of Bloom, I have felt joy and sadness at their instagram pictures, I have heard stories from mutual friends, but I love these people I feel a sense of togetherness with the Gungor’s, they found their light in a beautiful little girl named Lucie who happened to be born in a way that will make the world forever stare at her, and call her different.

And I find my life over and over again in the students that God has placed in front of me, the students that have all sorts of differences, the students that are constantly fought against and put in the “other” category. I see God in these students, I see the ways that he can make all of us unique and the way that all of these challenges bring us closer to him, and closer as humans.

This is the way that God has made the human condition and I wish that more people could see the beauty in our differences the beauty in the little girl that has to have an adult come with her to third grade, the beauty in the little girl who has a hard time keeping her hands to herself, or the little boy who can’t see and has to use a cane to get around, beauty in the boy who has not learned to control his emotions and throws chairs when he gets upset but so desperately wants to fit in and be accepted by his peers.

These are my beauties these are the children that have completely changed their parents lives, the children that were supposed to have a different life, but have shaped and changed the world in so many ways.

These students are beautiful, these students are light.

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❤ Kelsi Rae

What can you teach Ms. Magisano?

This quarter I have been taking a culturally responsive pedagogy class, we talk a lot about the racial and economic achievement gap that is widespread throughout this country. We discuss growth mindset, and things like the school to prison pipeline. Over all this class talks about a lot of things that I would hope new educators coming into the field especially in urban settings would see as common sense, things like . . believing all my students can succeed, and identifying the value in having a multicultural classroom, engaging families of students from different backgrounds. And a big one is ensuring that you are nurturing the whole child it is true that sometimes my students come to school hungry, or unclean, they come to school off of four busses to get here, after waking up at 4 am to get their little sister ready for school. Sometimes it is true that one of my fourth grade boys is in charge of his household when his mom is at work until 10pm, he walks his 3 little siblings to and from school makes sure they get fed and to bed before taking care of any homework, , and we wonder why the homework doesn’t get done.IMG_0735

But most importantly, more important than all of these things combined, more important than all of the obstacles that face these children everyday are the things that these students can teach me.

They have so much knowledge that I just try to soak up, everyday I can learn something new from them and that is what gives me the fire to teach them as much academic knowledge as I can, so that they can go out into the world fully prepared to teach everyone what they know.

So this week I had my students do a project to tell me exactly this, what do they think they can teach me?

I know all of the wonderful things that they teach me everyday, I know that when they wanted to do their project in Spanish I learned just as much that day as they did. I know that when they are light up to tell me about the different ways they are so caring towards each other, the ways they show compassion and empathy, I learn a little bit more about the human race each time.

But what do they think they can teach me? Is it about their joy, their culture or family, do they realize I cannot speak Spanish as well as they do and I would love to learn? Do they know that I am an only child so understanding how to interact with siblings is something I have never had to learn?

So I gave them an open forum to tell me, they were able to write “What can I teach Ms.Magisano?” Color and decorate it and we are going to make a collage of all of the things that my children know. I believe that so many times teachers come into school believing this is a one way street, they do the teaching and the students do the learning, and so students get that feeling too. . . I want them to know that this is a two way street, we are working together in this journey.

Here are just a few oIMG_0737f their answers. ..

IMG_0735 IMG_0736 They did not think of any of these wonderful things that I cherish so much. But seeing how they think, they things that they value is equally as telling. I am a literacy teacher, so many of the responses were that they could help me with math. Lets be real, they probably could. And then there were some banks of knowledge I never would have guessed, I learned about the Freedom Tower in New  York, I learned how to change to oil on a motorcycle, from a 5th grader, Nice! And I learned some fun things too, like that Jupiter has it’s own rings and that I could use help with my hair braiding! It was one of my favorite experiences so far and I can not wait to see what else I learn this year and every year to come.

Take the time to listen to children, so often they are absorbing all of our knowledge sometimes we should simply sit back and let them teach us something, the world will one day be in their hands and it is amazing how much they already know about it.

Trials of the Hair obsessed. . . You don’t want me here because of my color. . .

Sorry for the double non-hair entries in a row, but this is something that I cannot keep in.

As stated in the last Trials of the Hair Obsessed, I am in a residency year to get my masters in special education.  I am doing this residency in a low income school that serves just over 700 students, last school year, 664 of these students identified as Hispanic, 58 identified as White, and 11 identified as African American. Ok so what do these numbers actually mean, it means that my school is over 50% spanish speaking and has continued bilingual education through 5th grade. It also means that Black students are still hugely the minority, and this makes an impact for our black males especially.

This year I am watching first hand as two of the sweetest, challenging but sweet boys get stuck in the “angry black man” label before the age of 12, they have been suspended multiple times in the last two weeks between the two of them. And talks of moving them into the center for emotional disabilities run wild. A center that is largely used for this purpose, to house “angry black men” to get them through high school, when the public education system no longer has to deal with them.

Today in my reading group one of these boys, who both are admittedly not perfect children by any means and have behavior issues that must be addressed. But one of these boys got in trouble for not listening and choosing to distract others by calling out and singing and dancing, I was having a conversation with this boy after group and it went something like this

Student throws clipboard at me across the hall ( his clipboard is part of a behavior incentive program)

” I am not coming to group tomorrow”

Me” I hope that you do, when you make good choices you learn and you are such a good student, I would miss you if you weren’t in my group.”

” You are lying, you don’t want me here, don’t want me ___( School name) cause of my color”

Me: ( Almost in tears) ” That is not true, I want you here, I believe in you and want you to succeed.”

Even at the end of this conversation I don’t think he believed me, he is maybe 9 years old and he already has it engrained in his being that he is not wanted in the place that should make him feel safe because of the color of his skin. We do not live in a city that is often thought of as having even a strong history of racism but if a innocent 9 year old boy already has this deep feeling then clearly this needs to be something that is addressed.

I am not here to call for a complete overhaul of these institutions, I am asking for everyone to understand that this is still something that is living, something that is affecting our students and taking away possibilities that they don’t even know they have. I want everyone to take the time to think about what your actions are saying to these students.

Maybe this boy heard these things from his parents or outside places, but that in itself it also a problem, these perceptions and feelings have to be stopped. As a teacher I want to make all of my students feel that no matter if they are learning English, if they are from an affluent family, if they are white or black that I believe in them

I cannot change the circumstances of my students, and I cannot change the world  but I can control how I act and the things I do with these students. And I am going to strive everyday to make EVERY student I work with feel that someone cares about them, and that I believe in them. 

I don’t know of a better way to say it than to quote the help,

“You is kind, You is smart, You is important.” 

But I can never just leave it like that so as a teacher I must say

” You are kind, you are smart, you are important.”

Come to think of it, I think I will have that made into a poster for my classroom.

Thats all for now! I will do a hair 10 months post relaxer update next week.

❤ Kelsi Rae

Trials of the Hair Obsessed. . . My SPEDtacular life part 1

The trials of the hair obsessed entries, will just tell you a little bit about me, they may be about hair and they may not. In this case there is a tiny bit about hair and the rest is not, but I hope you enjoy learning a little bit about my life outside of hair ( if there is such a thing).

I am in grad school at the University of Denver in a program called Denver Teacher Residency, so we complete a residency year similar to a doctors residency in a title one public school in Denver and at the end we receive our masters in Education and have the option to sign a contract to work in Denver Public Schools for 3 more years in exchange for a tuition reimbursement. I am in this program for Special Education, I am doing my residency year with 3-5 grade students in literacy special ed, So this is my SPEDtacular life. . .

Letter I recieved this note from one of my most endearingly difflicult students on Friday, I have removed his name but this is should read

_____ refused to work with the class in his class, not doing so good – Class 114.  

He wrote a letter from the class about himself, just letting us all know he new he was “not doing so good” now if that is not witty I don’t know what is. This student is on of the students that often gets removed from the gen ed classes for behavior and then ends up in my class for most of the day. As a result I get to learn all of the wittiness that is within this 4th grade boy that is so close to being labeled, ‘ an angry black man” and being put in the emotional disabilities classroom. I am not denying that this student has some behavior issues, but nothing extreme enough to consider the permanent removal from general education. He has shown me that he is a caring, smart boy that just needs to learn to redirect his feelings, something we all have to learn at some point.

I seem to have the most room in my heart for the most difficult students however because not everyone agrees with me about this student, or many other students that I find the most joy in. But I guess this is why I chose to work in Special Education right? I have been bit, scratched, hit and even peed on and at the end of the day I gave all of these children a genuine hug and said I would miss them until tomorrow. I believe that if we look underneath the things that may disgust or frighten us there is a child that will show you the world if you let them and my wish for everyone is that they find someone that will show them this, and that we loose the anger and fear surrounding these wonderful children.

I promise in the future the My SDEDtacular life entries will have more humor and less seriousness, because as much as I love these students you have to laugh at the things that happen sometimes, So to end today I will finish with a story about both my hair and this same wonderful boy.

The day after I cut my twists to be shorter, he comes up to me with the most concerned look on his face, ” Ms. Mega, one of your twisties is coming out. .. let me fix it.” In all seriousness this boy grabed my hair and attempted to fix it, the result was both hilarious and heart-warming. He told me that he did not want me to walk around all day with messed up hair. Now that boy is on to something,

Well that is all for today. Have a wonderful week everybody.

Love your do and grow that fro

❤ Kelsi Rae