An emotional impact

In the past two weeks, I have been hit, kicked, bitten (too many times to count on just one hand), smacked, had items thrown at my head, charged at, and spit on. It’s been tough to say the least. Behaviors have always been an interest to me and these past two weeks have been very emotional for me.

In my world, there are no BAD kids, just impressionable, conflicted young people wrestling with emotions & impulses, trying to communicate their feelings & needs the only way they know how.
My students have behavioral difficulties that have landed them with me. A self contained, Social Emotional Teacher who is doing the best I can every day. In any given day, I can have students be compliant and civil while others may flip their lids and struggle to regulate. While there have been weeks where I’ve had a rough day or two, the past two weeks almost did me in.

Emotionally, I was a wreck for a few days after the fact. Knowing that young students have severe behaviors and can hurt adults can be really difficult to swallow. After being emotional, I felt guilt of wondering “am I doing the right thing?” as well as “can I really do this?” Waves of emotions after secondary trauma are typical and this was no different.

I stood in a doorway, one afternoon last week, and was reminded that I have the “hardest job in the whole school” by a colleague who gave me a pep talk and hug. That day was dark and I was bruised visibly and emotionally. Her words went to my heart and got me through the afternoon and into Friday. Having had others tell me “I don’t know how you do it” or “I would’ve quit by now” gives me strength to keep going.

This period of time has changed me for the better. I am learning how to support students with severe behaviors, going through the emotions, and realizing that their actions are making a big impact on me to do more to support them. Life as a special educator is never dull, always adventurous, and leaves an emotional impact on my heart for years to come.

5 ways to ease back to school

5 ways to ease your students back into the structure of school.png

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!

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

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

Unpaved path ahead

I am a detail oriented person. I like to have a plan, know what I am doing, make lists, and move forward with some idea of what I am getting myself into to a degree. However, this past school year really threw me in a loop. Staff difficulties, extreme weather, severe challenges at work, and life really threw me in a loop. While I knew it would be difficult to be in the midst of unpredictability; life still had somewhat of a road map. It was predictable, it was routine, and it now is in the past.

A little over a month ago, I was asked to interview for a new position that would be created in m a district closer to family. I felt the interview went well and then I waited. The next Monday, the director of special ed called me herself and offered me the position as a Self Contained behavior unit teacher. In early May, I signed my letter of intent and I submitted by contract to the new district this week and resigned from my current district as well.

FB announcement

There are a lot of unknowns, such as what school I will be at (since the unit is being created based on district need), what types of behaviors and needs my students will have, and what the age range will be in my classroom. This is an unpaved path so to speak. I know behavior(s) and love the challenge. But not knowing the details has been tough. They will come in time but, for now, I will wait.

It was an extremely tough decision to leave my comfort zone, staff, and my students. I will miss them daily. I am extremely grateful for technology to stay connected as well. However, it is time. Time to have the opportunity to serve other students. Time to help students thrive and be supported in a safe environment. Time to start a new adventure and time to face the unpaved path ahead.