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5 ways to ease back to school

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The New Year is over and students are heading back to school across the United States and beyond this week. The anxiety will be high students who have had their entire routine and structure deviated for the past two weeks. Re-entry into the structured, school setting is fabulous for so many but not without push back from some. Teachers ready to dive back into school as they know it and students ready to reorient to the school setting. For some, school is a safe place where they know they are loved and seen. As educators, we must be mindful that we can’t just dive back into the land of school without some review and refreshers. Coming back from any break means review and refresh for expectations, guidelines, and rules.

5 ways to ease your students back to school

Let students talk..
Some of our students have been at home or without multiple activities over the break. They’re ready to have their friends back and you too. Allow for students to discuss their break. Perhaps ask “who did you spend your break with?” instead of “what did you do over break?” to guide students if needed. Give them a chance to connect again as well as observe the body language and students’ reactions over the regroup time. Some students have been entertained from start to finish while others aren’t. Be mindful and enjoy their stories.

Review expectations and procedures
We have all slept over the past few weeks and have had excitement and stress in our lives. Review expectations with students, make a new anchor chart, and get student input into what makes your classroom work well. From preschool to high school, students like having input and teaching others. Why not step aside and have students review expectations and procedures? Provide feedback as needed.

Practice expectations, procedures & practice again
It’s been a while. After reviewing expectations and procedures, have students practice how they are supposed to be in the classrooms and around the school. Take time to refine your procedures as you are laying the foundation for the second semester or winter term. It may take five tries and that is a-okay. However, reentry and review supports students having a routine they follow and that is vital for so many of our students. Set the foundation and allow students to feel success after a break.

Provide positive feedback & excitement for students
I will admit, I missed my students over the holiday break. Their sayings, appreciation, and just them. However, it was a much needed break. To welcome students back into the classroom, be excited to see them, celebrate who they are, and provide positive feedback. I can bet students missed you or, at least, their structure/schedule over the break. Be intentional about providing specific feedback to students as the day/week progresses. Sometimes we see our students more than they see their parents throughout the work week. Take the initiative and celebrate the students in your class who create the tone and culture of your classroom.

Be visible & upbeat
So many times, our students don’t have positive interactions on the way to school. Something may have happened at home, on the bus, or their basic needs haven’t been met well over the break. Be visible in the morning with your students. I LOVE morning duty to see the first pulse of my students. Offer a greeting, high five/hug/fist bump, and give them attention. The first interaction can make or break a student’s day. Invest time and awareness to students and be upbeat about students coming back to school. Your presence is huge for so many students.

Ease back into school knowing your schedule may flux a little, there may be an occasional frustration or two, and some may be so exhausted the first day. However, know YOU MATTER to your students every day. Sometimes, YOU are their constant and they depend on you as much as they etch their story into your heart. After a long break can be challenging. However, keep the expectations consistent, review & practice expectations, keep the structure present, and the bar high for your students.

Have a wonderful winter/second semester term!

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BE: one word in 2019

2019: a new year full of new beginnings, hope, and a slate that is not full of what has happened in the past. An opportunity to start fresh and create new goals, new opportunities, and new words to commit to.

Recently I stumbled upon #oneword2019 and it really got me thinking of how I could explore new avenues as well as owning what I can bring to the table and provide for others. I will admit, I struggled at first, since I was stuck between two words. Two words that encompassed two true avenues of hope moving forward. I decided on BE for my one word in 2019. The definition of Be has many. However, two in particular, resonated with me. The definitions “to equal in meaning” as well as “to identify with” resonate as I move forward in this new year.

I will BE a teacher as well as a mentor and family member. I can also BE a person who has ideas and thoughts. Moving forward, I want to BE someone who can be heard as well as someone who inspires and empowers others daily. I am charging myself with a goal to not only identify the good I bring as well as the inspiration I can bring to others every day.

Being a special educator, I already have a playing field. I really need to OWN what I can BE for others and for myself. It’s not an easy task. That negative voice can creep up and self-doubt can cycle in. However, I can’t wait to see what I can BE to myself and others this year. I am committing to be vulnerable, to take a leap of faith, and the BE this year. I can’t wait to go along this journey.

Be one word

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Empathy as a superpower

Every day, educators are faced with situations that involve emotions. No matter the ages of students, educators must think quick on their feet at times. We manage the good times and the difficult trials with our students every day. It is difficult to face but it’s our reality. As educators our reality isn’t just to educate but to build a relationship to support the student during their good and tough moments.

When we get right down to it, educators are in the heart business. Every day we provide positive feedback, model how to work through difficult situations, and provide a safety net for our students. We adjust our practices and strategies to meet the diverse needs of every student whether it’s an behavioral, emotional, or academic need.

Every day, we hear about their dreams, their interests, and eventually they let us inside their world and whatever good or difficult may be there. The simple truth is our students have baggage, trauma, and negative experiences that make journey through life difficult. Some may keep it all in and never show an explosive response to it while others may meltdown, cry, become violent, and act out. Every student is unique in their journey.We MUST remember that ALL behavior is feedback. It_s what we use to learn more about our students and get better at meeting their needs.Add subheading (1)Behavior tells a story whether it’s good or bad. How we respond or note the behavior truly matters. Educators must use and reuse empathy every day. Empathy gets down to the feelings of the individuals. Empathy puts yourself in their shoes. Think about that. Put yourself in your student’s shoes when responding to their behaviors. How would you want someone to respond if you’re visibly upset or emotional? How would you feel if someone just stared at you when you were having a tough time?

Instead of trying to fix every situation or come up with a fast solution, I challenge you to listen to your students, observe their body language, and hear what they really are saying. Put yourself in their shoes and see the problem face on together. Every educator has a duty to meet the needs of students each day. Why not use empathy as a superpower to connect and understand your students?

Empathy is a super power

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A grateful heart

Every so often, I tell people I am a special educator and get the response “it takes a special person to do that.” Other times, I tell people I am a teacher and get the response “oh you’re stronger than me.” Sometimes these responses bring good feelings and other times, I wonder, what else is posed on teachers when others find out their profession.

There’s a simple truth, though, to my teaching and answering my calling and that is with a grateful heart. A grateful heart to teach, to watch students be successful, to see students struggle and succeed, and to keep coming back. My profession as a Social Emotional Teacher has stretched me thin this semester. I never realized how much students dealt with until I started working with students with trauma filled lives and struggles. For my first six weeks of this year, I responded to calls for assistance and, in turn, found out that trauma has so many facets. Primarily, trauma does not discriminate nor is it just in special education. It is real and lives and breathes within so many students. It’s present every day and students react in many different ways.

Trauma does not discriminate. It happens everywhere—across all races, religions, socioeconomic levels, and family systems.

This school year has defined my grateful heart even more than years past. I have the opportunity to show up to a population of students that needs a constant. A population of students that uses my experience and knowledge for power and support. This is not me tooting my own horn; it’s owning what I can give every single day. Whether it’s responding to screams or elopement or being under a table with a student, my grateful heart of supporting students grows.

While I spend most of my days in a self contained unit working with extreme emotional and behavioral needs, I still consider it a gift to help others who need support as I am able. Being able to empower teachers and students daily is a calling that has solidified over the past two years. It’s not just the students that need support; it’s the teachers and staff working with students daily who need support too.

There are so many needs in the classroom setting and while, I can only do so much, I lead with a grateful and willing heart to support others. Whether it’s a teacher at their wits end or needing some new ideas or a student in crisis, my hope is to respond with a grateful and willing heart every single time.

A matter of hours

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Cultivating my why with heart

I’ve had the best of both worlds through my years as a substitute, home bound instructor, and a teacher in different capacities. From preschool to high school, I’ve seen so much over the years and I am forever grateful for the experiences that have allowed me to know what I know and do what I do today.

This year I moved districts, positions, and felt the calling to come close to home. I accepted the position of a Social Emotional Teacher and behavior supporter for many. It’s a dream position as I love having a self contained unit to truly focus on the needs of students in a smaller setting. I also have the pleasure of supporting teachers to provide strategies for students to be successful in the general education setting. It is a dream come true. It has been so much new but I am learning how to cultivate my why every single day and this leads me to find JOY each day too.

Thinking of how I support students and staff this year and in years past has led me back to cultivating my WHY and HOW every single day this year. So many times, I get pulled every which way and am in the thick of things all day long. On those long days, I have to look back to my WHY and see those smiles, laughs, and good moments that make the day special. I could get caught up in the little things and negatives but that is just not my style. HOW I choose to cultivate JOY of every day matters. From smiles to laughter, it really makes my day.

Looking ahead, I want to cultivate my why and how every day. How I serve students and staff as well as why I choose what I do daily. I find JOY in supporting others and this leads me to cultivate my passion daily. It’s not always easy but it makes my day to do what I do!

Looking forward, I don’t do my profession for the recognition, I do it for the HEART!

Helping students
Every time
Achieve and
Regulate themselves (with support if needed)
To learn, grow, and acquire new knowledge daily!

Ed quote

 

 

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Tell your story: A passion discovered

If you haven’t read part 1 or part 2, click on the links to catch up. 

Uprooted and on a mission to support students where-ever I am planted. Five years ago, I received a call that landed me five hours from my family and my home base. It was an adjustment, for sure, but it changed my world every day. Being able to support students in the classroom has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. It was something I had dreamed of and now it happened. I started in third, went to second, and found my yearning passion in special education throughout the struggles, meltdowns, and successes each and every day.

Special education has my heart for many reasons. For one, I had a few special education teachers never give up on me. When you have someone in your corner, fighting for your ability to access the curriculum and teach it in a way you understand, it means the world to someone. Secondly, my heart wants to give students the world no matter their difference or disability. Seeing students struggle breaks my own heart and I want to give them the world, strategies, and peace of mind for THEM to do well. All in all, special education allows me to give students the world while teaching them differently.

Every student deserves the world and my passion in special education allows me to support students through their struggles, difficulties, and access to education. Throughout my time in special education, I have found that my heart has etched memories that carry me through the difficult times, the struggles, and the heartbreak. While I am told “I couldn’t do your job” about once a week, this provides me with motivation to reach more students, to support them where they are at, and to facilitate learning for them.

See the studentthrough their heart!

I am forever grateful for the teachers and special education teachers that saw my heart and provided support each and every day. While many couldn’t teach me, I had several teachers fight to allow me to learn. My heart is in special education to allow students to learn and to grow. My heart will have memories etched in it and every day is an opportunity to see students through their heart no matter the struggle.

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Tell your story: what’s in the middle

Part 1: The early years if you haven’t read it yet.

Knowledge is power or so they say. It is something you have to go further in life. It’s the epicenter to move forward and to glean information. Knowing what I know now about learning disabilities compared to then has truly changed my outlook on society today. Kids learn differently. I learned differently and because of that a passion was born.

Learn something new

I saw so many struggles in my elementary through high school life that it enabled me to want to help others. Originally, I wanted to be a pediatric nurse but with Dyslexia, I flipped numbers often and would be completely heart broken if I accidentally gave the wrong dose to a child. It doesn’t happen every time but it takes one time to crush someone and I couldn’t handle it if I did harm.

Therefore, I went back to my roots in helping others in a different capacity. A capacity that supports students, has heartfelt moments, and makes a difference every day. I declared education and special education my second day of college and was on the track to my goal. However, there were still many moments of hardships from day 2 to graduation. Learning some things just wasn’t easy. Geology about ate my lunch (all the names) and some of my education/professional classes made me study more than I ever knew how. But I made it. It wasn’t easy but I did it and have never looked back and didn’t appreciate the struggles thus far.

Learning uncomfortable

I was ready to work with students. I loved my observation and student teaching opportunities but wanted my own classroom to see students thrive and grow in. However, life took a different turn on my educational journey. I had the opportunity to substitute in three districts for three years. It wasn’t what I had planned but it really made me appreciate how much substitutes did from day to day as well as what teachers and paraprofessionals did as well. In those three years of subbing, I was a long term sub, para, aide, and teacher in EC-12. Every job gave me a deeper understanding of how I could serve students and staff.

For three years, I didn’t realize how much substituting would change me. I saw different ages, different struggles, and different campuses put their hearts and souls into their students. It was eye opening and amazing. These three years shaped who I wanted to be as an educator and who I thought I wanted to be. Seeing the struggles and celebrations made me develop a love for relationship building and rapport with students and staff. We spent hours together and I will never forget the memories and advice I was given. I formed so many connections with staff and am grateful for the experiences to this day.

Three years passed and I received an opportunity to uproot my life, move across the state, and start a four year venture in an elementary school. While it wasn’t easy, I learned so much and hope to instill more into lives on my new journey.

To be continued in part 3…

 

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Tell your story: the early years

Growing up, learning came slow for me. It was like a breeze, of sorts, that gave glimmers of gust every now and again. I struggled, I cried, and I wondered “why” it was so hard for me to learn. Being the oldest child in my family, this was all new territory for my family. The school districts tried and some were unsuccessful to give me the supports I needed to be successful. When I was in fifth grade, I finally received the learning disabilities diagnosises as to WHY I was struggling so much and it was finally a reason. It was like a breath of fresh air finally blew threw and gave my family and I the answers were knew were there but didn’t test to in the school districts.

Those diagnosises still follow my journey today and make it tough to learn some new information, to hold information, and to not transpose numbers. They are not an excuse however but a reason. A reason I so desperately needed to why I learned differently and why learning was more difficult for me than others.

Something I learned early on was learning looks so different for many. It’s not about the diagnosis you have, it’s about how you move forward each day. I am grateful to have a small friend and family base that was in my corner but still faced hardships and trials. With each hardship, there’s a lesson intertwined within. It’s not always easy to recognize but it’s there. A lesson that allows one to see something others may miss or not notice.

Looking back, my lessons were through trials, at first, but made me a better person and educator to this day. Seeing others struggle for answers and diagnosises tugs at my heartstrings as someone who has learning disabilities and as someone who has been through struggles. However, these diagnosed learning difficulties don’t define who I am today. They are apart of my story. They make my story unique and my difficulties real. They are intertwined in my story and give me understanding for what I notice and work with each day.

Everyone has a story to tell. Some have hardships and others have tragedies that make their story and who they are today. Everyone’s journey is unique. Tell your story and pour your heart out. Be vulnerable and real each day. Use your knowledge to understand and guide your students around you each and every day.

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Part 1 of 3 on a journey to tell my story and how it allowed me to find my passion in special education and working with students will all types of differences.

 

 

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Speak up for the good

Recently, Aaron Hogan wrote a blog post about The Good Old Days and it really struck a cord and got my attention. There are so many moments, interactions, and memories that stick out to me as great. Not just great but meaningful, awesome, and thought provoking and good for my soul. From conversations on twitter to face to face interactions, something someone has said touches my heart and makes me think about what’s next or how I can do better.

Think about the last nice thing someone said to you? Did you tell that person how it impacted you? Did you give a compliment or thank them for what they said? If not, why not?

So many times we, as educators, forget what we teach our students every day. We build up relationships and hearts all day long. However, we sometimes forget to do the same for adults. We require the compliments, relationships, kindness, and memories too. We MUST educate and give feedback or compliments to one another to take note and speak up for the good surrounding us. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It just comes from the heart. A simple “thank you” or “I really like how you did something” make a difference. When someone stops in their day to reach out and give you that comment or feedback, it matters.

Think about a time that touched your heart or when someone complimented you. How did it make you feel?

Make someone’s day by reciprocating that feeling. Speak up for the good. Give feedback, compliments, and cultivate matters of the heart when someone impacts you. It may just make someone’s day by the words that you speak or type.

Cultivate matters of the heart & speak up for the good! (1)

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A matter of hours: Challenge accepted

Recently, I participated in Aaron Hogan’s Teacher Myth (#teachermyth) twitter chat and it got me thinking. Not just about writing but about the impact every one of us have on lives that walk into our school buildings, our hallways, and into our classrooms. The lives that walk into our classroom are vulnerable, tenderhearted, and real. They challenge us to be better, to do more, and to make a difference.

Every day, we have an opportunity to impact others. Whether it is in conversation, in the classroom, or through typed words. It’s about the intent and the power to stop your day to converse with someone. Every day, we have a matter of hours with our students to truly make a difference. Every interaction, every teachable lesson, every hour, we make a difference. Taking the time to instill good, heartfelt conversations mean the world to our students. Sometimes, it’s all it takes for our students to change their day and sometimes those interactions change ours too. It’s the little things like their sayings, their stories, and their heart that is, in turn, shared with us. Their heart grows with every interaction. In just a matter of hours, we have an opportunity to leave an impact each and every day.

It’s not just students though. It’s every interaction throughout our day. We have an opportunity to make someone’s day, deepen understandings, and to continue along a journey of understanding and impact together. Words matter and the interactions, whether online or in person, make a difference along the way. It may be a twitter chat or a face to face conversation but it can truly make or break someone’s day.

Encourage, listen, and speak as if the memories will make someone’s day and journey better. Whether conversations are with students or our colleagues, we choose to be vulnerable, have meaningful conversations, and live up to the matter of hours between us and everyone else.

There are 24 hours in a day and every interaction, conversation, and written text matters. Remember that words can make or break someone’s heart and journey. A matter of hours matters & every interaction leaves a memorable impact on someone’s heart.

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