DIY Pinterest Teacher!

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I have always wanted to be a Pinterest teacher, the teacher that has the perfect room that somehow stays clean after 30 students live in it day in and day out. But it turns out that 30 students or 16 students with special needs in my case can make it pretty easy to turn into an Amazon prime teacher; even easier with that two-day shipping! Like what is this magic?

But this summer I came across this stool at a yard sale for 2 dollars

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I couldn’t resist the idea of a DIY teacher stool project.

So I turned to trusty Pinterest and began looking at people who are actual Pinterest teachers and set to work copying their wonderful work.

The post I found most helpful and the stool I decided to try and recreate came from One Artsy Mama, and you can find that original post with all the supplies and goodies you will need here (.http://www.oneartsymama.com/2016/08/thrift-store-challenge-babanees-inspired-painted-stool.html?crlt.pid=camp.8BUAsF5KNkB4)

I set to work cleaning and lightly sanding the stool before applying my first coat of paint to the bottom half of the stool. I used Folk Art Gold paint and let me tell you, the first coat was ROUGH! I considered starting over with a new color. But after the second coat, it was looking much better, and I set into starting on the top half of the stool.

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After I finished painting and letting it dry I knew I wanted something written on the top along with my name.

I have a shirt with the saying

Be like a pineapple
Stand Tall
Wear a crown
And be sweet on the inside!

I decided that this cute saying also carried an important meaning for my students about self-confidence and so that is what I wrote on the top.

I used the transfer method found here, (http://angelamariemade.com/2016/11/how-to-easily-transfer-a-design-onto-wood/)

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I LOVE the way that the finished product turned out. It is ready to enter the classroom in a few weeks!

And at least for this week, I am finally a Pinterest teacher, take that my Amazon prime addiction!

-Rae ❤

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

School of the Special Hearts (The Lucky Few)

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People spend a lot of time talking about my “special heart “when they here what I do for a living. And then they double that when they here that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what I do and who I do it with.

I spend a lot of time annoyed with the people who just don’t get it! They don’t see the beauty, the love, the pure joy that comes with spending my life with children who have disabilities. Sometimes it feels like they are living in a black and white world and just don’t see the color that is all around them because they spend their lives on the outside of my little world with these students. How could you not love them, and want to spend your time teaching and learning from them.

But then I read the book “The Lucky Few” by Heather Avis and it was like I was staring into the face of someone who just GOT IT! She was saying all the things I feel and she was preaching it to the world. She was shouting the worth of her children and all children that are born with down syndrome or other special needs for the world to hear. And the world needs to here it.

That doesn’t mean either of us were born “getting it” at one point or another the idea of spending our lives with children with a few extra chromosomes terrified us; Heather talks about how much life with her children, “wasn’t her plan” she just wanted a healthy baby as all new parents do. But that was not that plan God had for her and once she said that first yes to adopting her daughter she was diving head first into a world that holds so much beauty.

She looks at her relationship with God in new light around every corner of this book. She sees his hand in the darkness in the loss of the ability to have children and the beauty in the gift that he gave her through the children he provided. Because she just had to remember he’s got this. He knew she would be one of the people that “gets it” she would take the lives of these beautiful children he made, and yes I totally believe he made them with that sneaky little extra chromosome on purpose, and she would show the world just that. That they were created, that they were no ones accident.

With each of her  yes’s she learned a little more about herself and about the kind of heart that God has for her and for her children. She continually said yes to the hardest things he was asking of her and gained a beautiful life from those yes’s. She learned something new with each of her children.

I think one of the most beautiful things I learned from Heather was from her struggle to bond with her middle child Truly. If you know anything about this family you know that sassy miss True is the only Avis child that does not have down syndrome. She has the typical number of chromosomes but more than makes up for that with her amount of sass.

Heather shares the struggle she had to bond with this little girl with all the will power and beauty. To most people they would say oh a “normal” baby that would be the easy one to love and fall in love with. I love that she shares the struggles here just as much if not more than with her two children with down syndrome. In this light you can see how much you have to learn from all different types of children, they all open your heart and pour something different in.

Heather opens her heart to God and repeats over and over, “Yes, you got this. . . Yes you got this!” And because of that she has walked into the life made for her. I hope that even when I am staring into the darkness, facing what seems like an endless amount of NO’S, I can continue to repeat, “Yes, you got this!” And walk forward into the space that is given to me!

The Lucky Few the people that get to spend their lives learning and sharing with something with down syndrome are just that so lucky. It took one of what I like to call the “best good morning hugs in the world” The full body, wrap their legs around you, lay their head on your chest, good morning hugs that in my experience children with down syndrome are the absolute best at giving. It took me one of these hugs and I just knew. I was meant to be a part of this

The Lucky Few.

Heather Avis’ book comes out on World Down Syndrome Day, March 21st 2017. (How perfectly fitting right?) It is available for pre-order NOW! Go, buy it! Welcome yourself into the BEST club!

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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 

An Open Letter to the Bad Kids. . .

This goes out to the student who sat down today and with a straight face told me, ” I am a bad kid.” When I asked why he thought that he told me that is what the assistant principle said. This comes after the assumption that this student took his Ipad home, because there was a picture of his mother on it, when in fact he was just smart enough to figure out how to Google his mothers name. Something the administration couldn’t figure out, when this fact was pointed out to them they refused to apologize to him, 10 year olds don’t deserve apologizes do they?

This goes out to you. . . because someone has to tell you

I want you to know that you are smart, and funny, and most likely way to witty and creative for people to handle. That you are an outlier not because you are bad but because they can’t hold you down, you do not assimilate to the classroom culture and you shouldn’t let that discourage you. Keep it up.

I want you to know that you can do the work in your classroom, that sometimes you just want to demonstrate the little power that you have in anyway that you can, While this may seem like a show of strength to you, by not doing your work you are only hurting yourself. Demonstrate your strength with your knowledge.

You need to know that compared to most of your suburban, educated, mostly white teachers you are a foreign entity. The stories you tell about the life you have to live outside of school probably astounds them. No matter how many classes you take on being culturally responsive, when you watch a 10 year old take care of his little brother and sister day after day, walk them to class, make sure that they get picked up. When you hear the stories about the 6 extra people living in your apartment it is hard to handle, and some people handle it better than others. Some people see your potential your grit, and resiliency that you show just for showing up at school each day and producing some work. Some people see how these skills will make you more marketable in the work force, some people will hone these skills with you and teach you how to regulate all of the many emotions coursing through your brain at anytime.

But some people will see a problem to be fixed, they will see a situation that must be diminished and overcome. They will see you as a deficit already, at 10 years old they will wash away all of your potential. And because of that they will write you off, they will call you a bad kid and keep a running record of your grievances in their mind. They will let your get away with not doing the work, not because they care about your situation, but because they think that is all you can do.

Accept this challenge! Rise to this occasion, to prove them wrong!

When those few teachers yell at you and sit you down one on one and make you do the work. When those teachers allow you to sit in their rooms for hours on end when you have been removed from another classroom. When you think that teacher couldn’t be any harder on you, just know it is out of love.

These are the teachers that know what you can do, they yell at you because it isn’t acceptable for you to not do the work they won’t accept anything less than the best from you, because to allow the circumstances outside of school to affect would be doing all of your amazing qualities a disservice. They are yelling and not taking your shit because they love you.

They know just when to give a little to not push to hard, but to still get the most work done.

My worst fear is that you will adopt that label of a “bad kid” as the truth. As I have already seen you doing as an amazing 10 year old. There is absolutely nothing inherently bad about you, sometimes you make bad choices, but someone has to teach you why they are bad, the choices you make are not you!

I want you to know that SI SE PUEDE! No matter what anyone, even yourself tells you. You can do this. You can overcome a system that was never designed to benefit you. but at its core, at the root of it was designed to keep you out of it. This system is yours, you are the future.

And the only thing Bad about you is how Bad Ass, you are going to make this world when you show everyone what you are made of.

❤ Kelsi Rae

The Joy of Spring Break, teacher style

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Remember that feeling the last day of school before a break, whether it was Christmas break, spring break, Summer break, or even just a long weekend.. . the anticipation of not learning for an entire week, for some students it means a week of relaxation and video games at home, maybe you are at a day care for the week, and yet for other students it means a week of being home a lone and maybe not eating consistently because normally you eat two meals at school 5 days a week.

This has been the biggest shift that as a teacher instead of a student, my students are stressed out by spring break, several have begged to stay here with me at school, ( because clearly I stay at school all week, you know teachers do live in their classrooms), they have asked to come home with me for the week, and one student asked my teammate if he could crawl in her suitcase and head to Chicago with her.

Now the spring break I remember meant either being at my friends house most of the day or remaining quite as a mouse while I often played games by myself, I grew up with a single mother and she worked nights so day times were quite in our house while she slept. but I was always excited about breaks, I always knew I would have more than enough food to snack on endlessly I knew that my mom would always be happy to see me when I woke up, I cannot imagine the stress that my students feel around spring break. To be so young and have to worry about such large things breaks my heart, If I could load you up with a suitcase full of food for the week I would!!

Now back to that anticipation and excitement you used to feel around a break from school, now imagine that now, imagine you were getting a week long break from work built into your year, no vacation days used no consequences  for not showing up, just a week where the entire company took a break, that feeling is infinetly better than the feeling as a child.

This year with grad school and teaching I was not sure I was going to make it to Spring Break, this week has been a major trial to get through, the students are in rare form, either because they are stressed about the break or excited, or a mixture of the two.

But here i am just counting down the hours until I don’t have to teach another thing for 9 days, no more instruction of the LEAP indicators, no more grading papers, I get to relax and then it is the last big push till summer which is full of testing, testing and more testing, so really your final push for instruction is over and now we have to get to Summer, just get to summer!

Hello March, please be damn beautiful!

February has been especially hellish for me! Denver has had record breaking snowfall and I hate the cold! I have been finishing the third quarter of my grad program and it seems to be especially terrible! Last week I had 4 papers due in 4 days. It is also hiring season for the public schools for next year! Luckily I was able to get a job quickly but to add insult to injury from everything else now everyone else gets upset because they have not secured a job for next year yet! So please please God le March be beautiful!

It is March, which means my birthday is in 6 days, I will be 24 years old! What is exciting about 24? I can’t think of a damn thing, except that I have landed my dream job and that I am getting married! These all seem like very adult things to be excited about don’t they?

Well welcome to March, I decided to do a protective style for March, my hair has been whispering at me to big chop or mini big chop, and I just can’t get myself to do it so away the hair went. I went with box braids for this month! They are medium length I like them well enough I hope that will be able to keep them in until the beginning of April, I plan to take them down and reevaluate cutting my hair over spring break, which is the first week of April!

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I ended up cutting some of the length off of the ends because they were just too heavy, now they are choppy and uneven and I think I like it even better that way.

Yesterday, one of my students was having a rough day with behavior! By rough I mean I had to pick him up from the office for group time, he was crying and had apparently pushed another student. This particular student happens to just own my heart! He is one of the 5 black boys at are school and he is one of the 3 that are continually fighting off the Affective Needs center ( which serves students with severe emotional disabilities) There is a high disproportionally to the number of black boys in these programs and I am doing everything I can to make sure this student is not wrongly labeled.

So yesterday he enters my group and asks to look up George Washington, Beethoven, Mozart, Abraham Lincoln and finally George Washington Carver. Now the first 4 I could understand, all fairly well known names in history. But George Washington Carver stumped me. why did my 3rd grade student even know his name, let alone want to look him up. So together we started dong some research, and we cam across this image

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Where there is no vision there is no hope. Now this was a big statement for this student, but we broke it down into student friendly language. We made a deal that whenever he was having a rough day, he would remember to look towards the future, have vision for himself, and that would bring him hope to change whatever is happening. I printed out the image and hung it above my desk. Whenever he is having a hard time he can come in and remember to have hope!

We had to check back in with the principle after group, when she asked him how he was going to turn around his day he turned to her and said, “No Vision, No Hope.”

I don’t think I have ever been more proud!

This is why he owns my heart.

So I had to remind myself, that even though February has been especially hellish, March is here, and spring is coming! I have to look to Mr. Carver and remember. “No Vision, No Hope.”

❤ Kelsi Rae