31 December 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I am so excited to get back into blogging regularly, and I can't think of a better way than to link up with The First Grade Nest for her 2014 Goals Link-Up!






I want to make it through the year.

LOL, but really, my goal is to plan ahead by month so that I can make the most of my time with my students and take home less work at night time.

Create something to actually sell on Teachers Pay Teachers/Teacher's Vault. [I have some free products  you can check out if you want!] and make at least $50.

Be proud in a bikini on my honeymoon. I don't really care about "losing weight", per say, but I want to look strong and feel confident on the beach in March!

Get out of my house and my classroom more. I basically just travel back and forth between those two (with intermittent trips to Walmart), and I think I'd really improve my level of general happiness if I maybe find some hobbies or something.

California. I've never been and my best friend-in-law lives there now so we have good reason to go on a little trip!
Also, Big Bend National Park and Marfa, TX. They aren't too far from where we live and look like a bunch of fun.

Something healthy... any suggestions? (:

I think I'd really like to learn how to ride a motorcycle in 2014. My dad and husband both ride and I often ride b*, but maybe I'd have more fun on my own bike.

I'm not going to kid myself and say I'm totally giving it up for the entire year, but I always see a significant difference in the way I feel when I don't eat lots of extra fried food. Also, I'd really like to give up unnecessary complaining. I am all about a good vent session, but just complaining with no solution or problem solving annoys me, and I'm sure it annoys those who have to listen to me!

Read for pleasure! When I was little, I read in the way most 10-14 year old boys play video games. I was obsessed and it often interfered with my daily life... so for obvious reasons, I rarely read for pleasure in college. But now, I think I want to try to wind down at night by reading. I have an iPad, so I  should be able to do it on that, right? Anyone know if I can use my abundance of iTunes moolah to buy books?

A happy first year of post-grad life, border-town life, and marriage (which are on the same time line... when I do change, I do it BIG!)


30 December 2013

yet another

CHANGE.

But this time, I hope, it is for the good of both me and my students.
After a semester of feeling overwhelmed, constantly behind, and alwaysalwaysalways tired, I gathered my ideas and concerns [and prayed a lot] and then very cautiously voiced them. When it comes down to it, the needs of my students are priority in my job. They just are. A wise professor once told me that if student need was in the forefront of all of my decision making and planning, I could never do wrong. So, I told the people who needed to hear that my students needed more than I can give them.

And you know what happened?

Those people who needed to hear the truth immediately got to work on hiring a second, certified special education teacher. They didn't question my work ethic, they didn't give me empty words of advice or offer to send me to yet another training from the region. They just got to work and they found someone to come teach in the special ed department with me and split the load of duties.

Starting in January, I am not the catch-all, solo special ed superhero teacher at my elementary school. I get to teach the preschool program for children with disabilities in the mornings (JUST PPCD... I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around that designated duty in one classroom with one group of students), and case-manage/do administrative tasks in the afternoon. I could just about cry thinking about how the students I work with are going to get what they need because they need it, not just because it is what we have.

Let me know if you have PPCD classroom schedule/organization/curriculum tips to share, and if you have any great ways that you stay focused and on top of paperwork! Now that my life is slowing down and I'm kind of getting a handle on things, I am really going to try to be better at posting on here the things we do in my classroom and at my school to keep special education running smoothly.

19 December 2013

Resource Thursday: PPT Oral Testing

First one in... 6 months?!

One of the most challenging aspects of my job is coordinating the insane number of requests for oral testing. Mylanta, I swear like everyone of the kids I "case manage" for (or whatever you want to call whatever that part of my job is) seems to have a test at the same time on the same day of the same week. {P.S. Our ABSOLUTE BIGGEST gen ed class is 15 kids.}

This in mind, I recommended that the general ed teachers read the test aloud in their classrooms instead of having them walk over to the catch-all special education room, wait for an available test reader, have the test read (hopefully without an interruption from another student in the room), and then walk back. There was initially some emails to the principal moderate push back about this idea and confusion about how it might work...

...but once I lengthily explained that the teacher was not required to shout and/or scream the test to the student at their regular seat right next to another student taking the test (because WOAH they may have a tough time with reading, but they are not hard of hearing) and that they could simply pull the students to the back table and quietly read the questions and answers, things got a smidge better.

There are two neato things I have discovered so far to help with this oral testing need. One uses iPad accessibility features (not my favorite) and one requires PowerPoint... Let's start there

uno 
PowerPoint

I learned this at a training from our Region this summer. Follow the steps and use your verrrrry best common sense and judgement to make this work for ya:

1. Look at your test. Read it to make sure it makes sense and you are... uh, how you say... actually assessing based on the TEKS (or Common Core, whatevs) and the material you taught. You may laugh, but this is something I've had to address... As in, "I know you are behind your scope & sequence schedule, but no, I'm sorry, I would not advise giving this test because you have not covered about half of the material with your student".

2. Open PowerPoint and create a new simple slide show [and SAVE IT]

3. Create a title slide with the name of the test (and train your kiddos to do a cross-check to make sure they are hearing the correct test)

4. Create a second slide, and title it "Question 1". Type question 1 into a text box on the slide.


5. Click the following series: "Insert">"Audio">"Record Audio"


6. A small box should pop up giving you the option to click a red record button. Click the button to start the recording and read your question in a loud, clear voice. Click it again to stop the recording.



7. Play back the recording to make sure you read the question correctly and can hear it. Then click "SAVE"

8. A small audio headphone looking thing should pop up. Drag it next to the question (or above or underneath- this placement doesn't actually matter as long as you do it the same way every time so your kiddos aren't confused).



9. Repeat steps 5-8 for the answer choices.

10. Repeat steps 4-9 for each question on the test.

11. Go through and listen to each question and answer set real quick to make sure the numbers line up and whatnot. My computer lets me listen to the audio clips in working mode, but on our school computers you have to view it as a PPT slide show to be able to click on them and listen. One of those two methods is bound to work for you!



Troubleshooting tips: 
1. Don't mumble while reading
2. Give your kiddos a practice run or two on the system before the actual test. Pick something very easy that they can "test" on, so they can practice the system authentically, but not be too stressed over the material.
3. Make sure you know the accommodations/modifications, district and state standards, etc. for oral test administration! 
4. Once you'd made one test, save your PPT template and simply do a "Save As" and replace the title of the test and question/answer sound thingys.




I realize that this sounds a little tedious, but I promise a little effort to do this in the beginning will make it worth your while in the long run! You can share these files with other teachers and over multiple years (if it makes sense, of course!), and if you need to tweak it a little from year to year (or teacher to teacher), it is not hard at all! Though I haven't ventured into this area yet, I'm also thinking that this could be a good job for a trustworthy and tech-savvy parent volunteer. 

26 November 2013

Help! I need somebody!

I need to be absolutely frank. Maybe this is the half-bottle of wine speaking, but lately my teaching job sucks. There is literally no other way to describe how I feel. I am over-worked, underpaid, unskilled to do this job, and the newest addition to the list: disrespected. The combination of these quickly becomes an altogether scary, sad, and painful realization. And that bad boy hits me daily.

But, you know what makes me feel better? Gives me a little perspective?

...digging into my Bible every morning. It is insane the way that spending 10 minutes with the Big Guy can change my outlook for the day. Focusing my prayer on those who can't help what they are doing or are just flat out wrong in what they are doing makes me realize that there are so many things beyond my control and that trust in the Lord has got to be huge. I'm studying Jonah right now and sometimes I swear this point in my career is when I am in the belly of the fish. I just have to trust that I will be spit back out on to dry land soon... (:

But also, writing makes me feel like I am making a little bit of a difference. Specifically blogging. Seriously, if ANYONE gets anything from my somewhat miserable time in this little town, I will know that there was a purpose for my experience here. Also, if anyone is willing to keep a sista accountable for spilling my guts appropriately and confidentially reflecting on my experiences, holler. I need it!

I am writing a post right now for a little tech Tuesday info- check back if you are interested in how you can do oral testing with very few actual voices to read.

18 October 2013

just call me shawn johnson

...because flexibility is the only way you can survive in the nutso world of special education. That is my golden line from my first nine weeks of teaching.

So far, I've been bitten, kicked, scratched, hugged, kissed, and complimented. I've taught math, science, social studies, reading, and writing to students in pre-k, kinder, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade in at least five different classrooms. Students have shut me out, and students have cried and bared their soul to me. Teachers have cornered me in the copy room to holler at me, and teachers have come to my room just to see how I'm holding up.

In this tiny, precious, rural district, I've attended multiple pep rallies that shut down the town, ridden on a homecoming float that had a tank with real smoke coming out of it, sprayed a real fire hose on Fire Safety Day, and participated in Ag Day (where the school shut down to have the kids go around stations set up on the playground and blacktop and learn about sheep, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, roping, and cotton).

I've tried system after system, procedure after procedure. In a world that deserves consistency, I've had to miss over full 10 days of school and one of my 5 paras quit unexpectedly. I've rearranged my classrooms at least twice each, I walk an average of 2 miles a day at work (shout out to my girl, Al, for the pedometer!), and I literally only know what is going on about 20% of the time. I've come to the harsh realization that I'm NOT the best person for the job, but I am the ONLY person for the job right now... And all I can do is try my best.

This life is crazy. No day is the same. Somedays I cry all the way home and threaten to take away our DINK* staus, and somedays I jabber about how proud I am of my kids for coloring in the lines. But I love it. I really do. I am so incredibly convinced that the Big Man has me here for a reason.

Stay tuned for more specific details on:

  • iPad testing for oral admin
  • managing a staff
  • multi-use classrooms
  • relationships with general education teachers
  • how I plan

*Dual Income, No Kids

08 September 2013

life is crazy... but a freebie!

To say I had little understanding of what I was getting myself into would be an understatement... Without going into too many details, I quickly realized:

a) that this year is going to be absolutely ridiculous
b) I can't fix everything at once, and
c) if I can keep my head above water 80% of the time in the elementary school setting with supports from my administrators as needed and booze at regularly scheduled intervals, I'll consider that mastery. #LOLspecialedteacherIEPjoke

I took a break from this little guy for the last few weeks just so I could make an attempt at getting the year started with some degree of effectiveness, but as I'm sitting down in my kitchen writing, I'm remembering how therapeutic it is. So maybe I'll be here more often. Maaaaaaaaaaybe.

Speaking of therapeutic... and the promised freebie... I have now have a TPT store with a grand total of 1 product. And it is free. You are welcome.

I use this 5 deep breaths thingamajig with a student who has some difficulty managing anger. It is a tool in his Cool Down Bucket. I am very aware that the Cool Down Bucket/Kit/Box/Whatever is NOT an original idea, nor is the 5 Deep Breaths Folder. I'm having trouble finding the original source (as opposed to one of the many pinterest pins/bloggers/research article writers who has referenced it) of this idea, but just so we're clear: I am not claiming this little bit of genius as my own. I'm only claiming that I couldn't find one for free on TPT, so I spent about 5 minutes to make yet another similar version of a 5 Deep Breaths visual on Microsoft Word and I thought other people might want to use it instead of spending their own 5 minutes on the computer.

Prep Instructions (they're complicated, so stay with me here):

  1. I cut the top rectangle part and glued it to the inside of an unmarked file folder (so it can travel with my student to other classes and not be too embarrassing- something he is concerned about). The whole thing was laminated.
  2. I cut out the five numbered red squares individually and laminated them. 
  3. Then, I added velcro to the back of the 5 numbered squares, the five red squares on the top rectangle part, and to five spots on the the bottom inside half of the file folder (to keep the numbered squares accessible and not lost!).
How the Magic Works:
  1. Each red numbered box represents one deep breath for the student to take. 
  2. With each complete deep breath, the student moves one of the red numbered squares from the bottom of the file folder to a red un-numbered square at the top.
  3. Repeat as necessary (or try a new method if this one seems like it isn't calming!)
Tips & Tricks
  1. TEACH THE STUDENT HOW TO USE THE TOOL. Don't just throw it in front of him or her and tell the student to use it when they're angry or frustrated. (I know this sounds dumb, but I wouldn't be saying it if I hadn't seen it done...)
  2. I'd recommend teaching pretty explicitly how the tool works and practicing taking the deep breaths and moving the red squares for the first time when the student is calm.
  3. Maybe make two copies... If you work with challenging kiddos, YOU might need a little tool like this for personal use. ;)
Enjoy, friends!

17 August 2013

what did i get myself into?

As I sat in my room Friday staring at the bare, boring walls of my classroom and reading/sorting through some confusing filings systems of legal docs that I had no hand in writing, but that I get to explain to the gen ed teachers who will be receiving the kiddos in their classrooms, I started freaking out a little. This is not what I signed up for. My friends back home have cute little mentor teachers and new teacher orientation sessions with people who do their exact same job (aka tons of collaboration and support and help) and I am the only one who is here in this tiny town to play the role of PPCD/resource/push-in/pull-out/self contained/keeping my head barrrrely above water teacher. 

But then, a couple of days ago, I met the mama of one of my most challenging students (or so I've been told). She spoke decent English, and came up to me hesitantly to talk about her last baby. She began to tell me about their struggles with him and told me how his last school year was tough and how she prayed that someone would be able to work with him so he can just learn... and I knew I was in the right place. I may not be this student's saving grace, but all of a sudden I felt like I could do this job. This is what I know. Loving and teaching kids and showing their families and their peers that they are worth something. They are smart and they have strengths and talents just like everybody else. That is what I signed up for.

Looking forward to starting my first official work week tomorrow! Life is good. (:

15 August 2013

for the mamas and the papas


This week, I'm working like a maniac to get my classroom ready BECAUSE next week is a full week of inservice and this week I spent two full days at an ARD conference annnnd had some last minute doctor appointments on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. PTL for helpful friends and family!

This week's resource isn't exactly a pin... I am working on a brochure about special ed that is geared towards parents. I am trying to give them some basic info without being too overwhelming. So far, I have sections to:
  • defines some commonly used acronyms
  • explain the ARD process
  • define RtI
  • explain our CARE team system
  • explain what happens when a parent requests a special ed. eval
I've worked off of what was already in place, but I'm not totally sold on the info... As a parent (or just put yourself in those shoes!) what would YOU like to know about special ed in an "at-a-glance" format? 

08 August 2013

Resource Thursday


This week, my new favorite resource pin is iPad rule posters. I am so, so thankful to have iPads for student use in my classroom. Just off the top of my head, I'm envisioning some extra Handwriting Without Tears practice, communication support, read alouds via iTunes... Technology is a beautiful thing, my friends.

Buuuut, we all know that just sending students off to use a learning tool, especially a learning tool with a pretty hefty price tag, can be disastrous at best. I will be using these iPad rules posters (with some
visual supports) to remind my students how important it is that we treat our learning tools with care.

I'll be printing them today, and then I plan to go over each rule on the posters, do a demo, and then take pictures of students demonstrating proper use to add to them during the first week of school.


Last week's pin for magnet boards is definitely going to be happening... But hasn't yet. This lil lady's gotta finish painting so that I can move my furniture back where it belongs. Cannot WAIT to have a functional classroom so that I can start getting ready to... uh... teach something.

07 August 2013

who, me?


As you may know, the Liebster Award is for up and coming blogs that have less than 200 followers. So what is a Liebster, you ask? Liebster is a German word that means sweetest, kindest, dearest, cute, endearing, etc. Such a thoughtful award! Here are the rules to accept this award:

[1] Link back to the person that nominated you.
[2] Answer the questions from your nominator.
[3] Share 11 random facts about yourself.
[4] Nominate 5 more blogs with less than 200 followers.
[5] Pose questions for your nominees

[1]

Thanks to Lindsey @ The Journey of A Beginning Teacher for nominating me!

[2]

1. If you weren't a teacher, what career would you have?
I'm not sure on the "career" front, but I think right at this moment I'd trade teaching for getting my masters and being a GA for a college swim team (if I HAD to!)

2. Who was your favorite teacher?
This is SO hard to choose, but I think my favorite group of teachers were my professors at SU. Our ed program was tiny and we had the same five professors over and over for four years. They challenged me to be a thoughtful, engaged, reflective teacher... and helped me grow in my personal life as well. They were always there for me, and I still text them to ask for advice or just to catch up!

3. Share a tip for newbie teachers {like me}!
Be nice to EVERYONE at your school, but especially the support staff (paras, custodians, secretaries, etc.) You will definitely need their help one day, and it will be to your advantage if you've been just a little sweeter than usual. 

4. Cats or dogs?
Dogs, absolutely!

5. What is your favorite board game?
I'm not a huge board game fan, but I recently played Quelf and thought it was really hilarious!

6. What is your fondest memory from your teaching career?
It's hard to choose, but I think one of my fondest memories was reading the notes from my 2nd grade class at the end of student teaching. This especially well-written one tugged at my heartstrings: 


7. Why did you start a blog?
Tough questions... I read blogs all the time and got such amazing ideas from them to improve my teaching or encourage me when I was feeling like maybe teaching was too much (how much money for how many hours of work?!?!). It's a great community, and I guess I hope that one day someone else will read what I've done that works (or doesn't!) and learn from it to help themselves become a better teacher. And frankly, no one else "gets" teaching. The huge investment in the kiddos lives, the amount of money poured out of your pockets and into the classroom, the "8a-3p" hours that are really 6a-10p somedays... It's nice to just see that other people understand.

8. What is your favorite school supply?
Colored pens, hands down!

9. Besides your current grade/content, what other grade/content would you want to teach?
I'd love to teach kindergarten for a year!

10. What is your favorite school related Pinterest pin?
Oh yikes. I'm really bad at picking just one favorite. I'll leave y'all with this:

[3]
1. I have lived in 15 different houses/dorms/apartments, 
2. My favorite scent is magnolia. I wear Bath and Body Works' discontinued spray, Magnolia Blossom, and one year my then-boyfriend, now-husband paid a ridiculous amount to order me some off of eBay because I was running out.
3. I got engaged and married pretty young... but that was not my plan and I've spent a lot of time trying to explain to people that God's timing is just perfect and had I not gone down the road I did I wouldn't just be "searching" for a husband at this point in my life.
4. I listen to the Bobby Bones show everyday on iHeart radio. If you don't, you should. They are hilarious and really good people.
5. I lovelovelove the idea of being a DIY, Pinspired domestic diva. But I'm not. So, I craft for my classroom and leave it at that!
6. I have a hard time answering the question, "Where are you from?". #bratlife
7. I swam competitively, year-round for 12 years.
8. I didn't start drinking coffee until last fall and I now have a cup every morning. I've recently started drinking it black, just to spite my husband.
9. I teach in a town that has a population of 1200. My high school had well over 2500 students one year that I was there.
10. I met my goober of a husband when I was 13. He's pretty much my bestie.
11. I've seen almost every recognizable landmark in Australia (Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock, Gold Coast, Syndey Opera House, etc.), but I haven't even been to Washington D.C. in the states!

[4]
I'm nominating:
[5]

1. If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?
2. How/when did you decide to be a teacher?
3. What is your favorite pinspired project/recipe?
4. How did you come up with your blog name?
5. What was your favorite summer job?
6. How do you drink your coffee?
7. What is your favorite children's book?
8. Where do you like to buy "teacher clothes"?
9. How far do you commute to school?
10. What's been your favorite linky party so far?
11. Do you bring home work on the weekends?

05 August 2013

Keeping it Organized


Um, 21 days until the first day of school...!!

As I mentioned here, I was in a dilemma as to how I'd be doing my planning this year. My job is a littttttle hectic (more on that later) and I'm planning in various and sundry ways for kiddos all the way from PK-5th.

After some thought on what I actually needed to do (plan for two self-contained classrooms with 5 kids, each in a different grade with vastly different IEP goals, and read lesson plans to help accommodate for 12 other students to so they can be successful in their gen ed settings), I decided that I couldn't justify buying any planner that I couldn't customize on the spot.

I went with a Modern Teacher's Chalk It Up lesson planner- I loved how many options it gave me for different styles of planning, so if I decided in the fall that I didn't like the way things were going I could change it up! My main hang up was the overall cost, but it ended up being fairly budget friendly [see break down below].



There are no office supply stores in my little nugget town, so I was going to take all the printed pages up to school and bind the pages with the binding machine, but then it wouldn't be easy to customize. Duh, Bean. I didn't really want it in a binder because they can get kinda hefty to lug around and don't always lay flat very well. But, when I was perusing our local Dirt Cheap, I saw this guy and knew it would be perfect! I could have probably found one of these Five Star Flex notebooks at out local WalMart, but this one was marked 70% of $8.99 and I am always enticed by a good sale.


A couple mornings ago, I spent about an hour printing all of the pages. It could be a much faster process, but I wanted them printed just so, back to front, blah blah blah #teacherprobs. It ended up looking like this:

each month starts with an "at a glance section"...
...then the full month calendar...
...followed by weekly planning pages (there are about a zillion)
Budget Breakdown:

Five Star Flex: $2.70
Printing: FREEish (because I already had paper and and my printer full of ink was a graduation gift)

Total Money I Saw Disappear From My Pocket: $11.20

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and am excited to put it to use in just a few days! This coming week holds a day of new teacher orientation AND my first parent/teacher conference. Woah buddy.

03 August 2013

Currently August

Linking up with Farley!


The Bobby Bones show is my main jam. I listened to it pretty much every morning on a top 40 station when I lived in Gtown and then it moved to a nationally syndicated country show my senior year, which was... AWESOME because I love love country music. I am a freak and could talk about this little radio show like I am besties with the hosts.

Um, hi KG Fonts, where have you been all my life? So cute and so free. 'Nough said.

I am jonesin for a red velvet bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes with extra cream cheese icing. Too bad the closest one is back in civilization, aka two and a half hours away from here. I wonder if they take orders...?

My classroom has a very, um, cheery paint job right now. I could see it working in another setting, but it kind of makes my head hurt and I'm going for a caaaaalm atmosphere in my self-contained room. Maybe I can just wish some pretty blueygrey paint onto the walls.

I need a pedicure stat. I dropped a filing cabinet (well, really a dolly with said cabinet) on my big toe. Minor physical damage, but it took the top layer off most of my toe nail. Not cute. And that big ol hater Bennett (aka my husband) keeps making fun of it.

I just did a little back to school must haves post, so I'll keep it brief. This little lady needs a coffee mug that won't spill on my excursion to work every morning, flair pens, sharpies, and shimmer BICs for a variety of... organizational needs, and my Vera lanyard (somehow I found three of those puppies stashed away in my house...) for my ID and keys.

02 August 2013

My Favorite Things: Back to School (for the teacher)

Well, the countdown is on... 24 days until schools starts! Linking up with Halle for more favorite things!


In preparation for going back to school this year, I have done (or have planned) a few of my verrry favorite things:

waaay too much shopping. When I was on my extended vacay in civilization last month, I spent lots of time at JCrew (hello teacher discount!), Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy. 


clean house. All summer, we've been moving in and moving piles around and putting furniture up in our little red house. The time has come for a deep clean. There is nothing worse than a tough day at school, followed by coming home to an icky casa.

a good pedicure/manicure. Apparently I have been missing out on the local nail salon that serves wine. I will be high tailing it there ASAP. I'm thinking of doing something tacky cute like this for the first week of school... I mean, you only get one first day of teacher ever, right?! Might as well do it big!



pre-packed lunches and snacks. As I mentioned last week, I try to eat kinda healthy, and pre-packing and planning all of my meals while I'm at school is my saving grace. If I know what I have to eat, I am less tempted to run get fast food (hahaha, don't worry though, the only "fast food" in my tiny teaching town of 1200 is Subway).

a good coffee cup and water bottle. To avoid snacking all day, I drink coffee in the morning and guzzle water all day. I have an insane amount of water cups/jugs/buckets/tervises, but am on the hunt for a good no-spill coffee cup. I'm thinking an Autoseal is going to be my jam this year, because if I spill coffee on my 45 min drive to school there is no way I can turn back to change!

01 August 2013

Filing Cabinets: Not Just For...


Hopefully all of my 1.5 readers got something (even if just like one of my rambling sentences stuck with you) out of the NAILED IT series... Still insanely proud of my main girl Al's ability to follow the steps to find some job success!

Back on real life Resource Thursday. My classroom has improved a great amount, thanks to a sweet teacher friend's advice. We hauled like 3 large tables, 2 student desks, 5-10 large chairs, a rolly cart (like the kind one might find in the library...?), and a bunch of other assorted junk tools and furniture into the hallway to join my 4 trash bags of shredded files. (File shredding was my project last week. It was nuts- like purchase-orders-from-before-I-was-even-in-kindergarten nuts... What a joy to sort through.)

Oops. Ok, really back to Resource Thursday. I'm planning on doing this to my two totally not matching file cabinets:



I'd really like to set this up to be an instructional tool. Probably gonna set up a magnet center of some kind with some sorting games, free time building with those excellent magnet things, spelling words with magnetic letters. The possibilities are basically endless.


Also, did I mention that I'm painting...? Hooray! Stay tuned for that progress!

30 July 2013

NAILED IT wrap up





GO NAIL YOUR INTERVIEW!

Be confident, but not cocky. Bring material to show of your skillz, but not everything you've ever made/done/written. Be honest, but don't highlight your flaws. Go to every interview you get, but don't settle. Basically, just be the very best version of YOU and you're golden.

Then, come back here and comment to share how your interview went! What did you do to prep? Did you take any NAILED IT suggestions? Do you have any of your own to add? 


{P.S. While following these steps, my main girl Al (who I mentioned here, and here) got an offer for her dream job! Congrats, girl! So incredibly proud of you!}

27 July 2013

NAILED IT part 4: interview questions

pin this to share a little info with your amigos

Ok, you've got a marvelous portfolio, a professionally adorable outfit, and you've done some research. Now what?

PREPLAN YOUR ANSWERS to interview questions. Talk OUT LOUD or write your answers down. But really probably talk out loud. Al and I did this for each other days prior to the interviews. There is nothing more delightful than having perfect wonderful, interesting, logical, cohesive thoughts dancing around in your brain and then not being able to string them into a series of even moderately eloquent sentences. Trust me, it happens.

At a minimum, I'd say you definitely need to know: 

ONE: WHY YOU WANT TO BE A TEACHER.

Unacceptable answers: 
"It just feels right" 
"I love making a difference" 
"I've always wanted to be a teacher" 
and mother of mercy, please never ever "because I love children"*

*Y'all, lots of people can say that they love children, but lots of those people are also wildly unqualified to be a teacher (ex: kidnappers). What makes you different? Surely there is something to help ya stand out! (:

Acceptable answer: 
"[insert specific, seemingly life changing incident here] happened, and I realized that I want to be a teacher because [insert 1-2 concrete reasons here] You can even add some of the aforementioned unacceptable phrases as long as you've given some personal specific statements prior.

For example, my girl Al gave a brief explanation of how she struggled with ADHD and a diagnosed math learning disability in school. Then, she mentioned learning about SO many tools and strategies to help students who learn differently in classes at SU, and how that inspired her to want to help kids who felt discouraged by their previous academic performances because she had an understanding of what they were going through 

TWO: YOUR STRENGTHS. 

Unacceptable answers: 
"nice"
"friendly"
"good"
or anything boring of the sort. 

Acceptable answers: 
"creative"
"enthusiastic"
"team player"
or anything else TRUE, followed by BECAUSE [insert reason you think your strength will make you a better teacher]. 

Don't forget to be honest- it would be crazy embarrassing for an interviewer to ask you to elaborate on a strength that you really don't have!

For example, Al said here that she thinks one of her strengths is creativity and it helps her become a better teacher because she is often able to think up with ways to teach something in a alternate way (explaining fractions with food instead of a worksheet, for example!) and colorful, personalized tools that make kids want to get involved in hands-on learning experiences (when making personal connections to text, she had students create their own version of A Very Hungry Caterpillar with their favorite foods).

THREE: YOUR WEAKNESSES

This is admittedly a really tricky question. I personally would say that unacceptable answers include: 
"I work too hard" or "I care too much" Don't be that obnoxious bullshitter. Someone could tear that answer down in a matter of seconds. Be honest. If you have a true weakness, be frank BUT have ideas for how you will improve your situation, and specifically outline the ways you think the school/district will play a role in your improvement. 

First year teachers, email me. I have the besteverinamillionyears weakness for you, as well as your improvement plan. It is pure gold I tell ya. Pure 14K gold.

After you've nailed down some answers to the above basic questions and TALKED OUT LOUD about them, go online and look up some potential interview questions. There are quite a few lists out there. I found them in my slightly unsuccessful Google search. And then, TALK OUT LOUD about answers to questions you might be asked in an interview. 

Recently one of my favorite new blogs, A Special Sparkle, featured a post from Sarah with a lot of thought-provoking interview questions. Read through and TALK OUT LOUD about those questions here! Al got asked at least half of these questions in her recent interviews AND was able to answer them because we'd talked through the answers and she had anecdotes & info to go with them.

Veteran teachers, what are some questions you've been asked in interviews? Most importantly, what is your weakness?!

26 July 2013

My Favorite Things: Foodies



Y'all. There is no other way to say this...


I love to eat.


I am a mediocre chef at best and I try to eat fairly healthily... but sometimes a little of my sweet southern grandma gets into me and I smother my one slice of 100% whole-wheat toast in Mayhaw jelly.

My favorite go-to foods: 

Chiobani and/or egg whites with turkey bacon

source

Turkey, swiss, and avocados sandwhiches (or really anything with avocado!)
source

Grilled chicken & veggies (our HEB has delish sweet chile marinated chicken breasts, so you best believe we eat them at least once a week)

I often get bored with eating the same things over and over, so I rely on my BFF, Pinterest, for most of my kitchen-inspiration. I spend lots of time drooling over my boards, but I occasionally actually make something!

My favorite recipes that I've actually tried:








And finally, my all time favorite places to eat:

1. Trudy's is a delicious Austin restaurant. I love their migas & fajitas, stuffed avocado, and Mexican Martinis. Do not go to Austin without stopping by one of their locations!

2. Chick Fil A. And my closest one is two hours away now. It has been a really tough adjustment for me (...and I'm sure equally as tough for the Georgetown location. I mean, I probably dropped by for 5+ visits a week)

3. Nothing Bundt Cakes. Awwww yeah. Red Velvet Cake.

I'm still on the hunt for a favorite place in my current home. We have shockingly low quality Mexican food considering that we are literally right on the border with that foreign nation...

Shoutout again to Halle for hosting such a fun summer linkup- could not have come up with a better way to introduce myself to the blogging world!

25 July 2013

NAILED IT part 3: love yourself, love your district



OMG, YOU GOT CALLED TO COME IN FOR AN INTERVIEW! AHKSSDKJHSD!!

You've got a marvelous portfolio, a professionally adorable outfit. Now what? 

Two important next steps:

RESEARCH the district that you'll be interviewing with. Scour their website(s), look them up on greatschools, etc. Stalk 'em real good.

And then, have questions prepared. A good question is one that shows your research annnnd offers the interviewer(s) an opportunity to dazzle you with their offerings and programs and such. For example:

Good question: "I know your district uses the [insert whatever behavior management plan/learning model]. Can you tell me a little more about how that plays into the day to day routine in a classroom?"

Bad question: "How many days off do I get?" Haha, but really, anything that is clearly visible on their website is not a great question, nor is anything that makes you look unenthusiastic. 

THEN:

SPEND SOME QUALITY "I LOVE ME" TIME a couple times before the interview. Do you have old papers and projects, letters, evaluations from cooperating teachers or professors? Read them. They will help you cultivate answers to our next step annnnd make you feel pretty darn confident! I mean, you are really really cool. You might just need some help coming up with concrete reasons why. (:

While you are feeling confident and sassy, CLEAN UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES. I'm sure this is painfully obvious and maybe you don't even have this issue... but don't you dare have any photos that are revealing a lot of shenanigans or a lot of skin or a lot of alcohol (ok, actually just no alcohol). Keep your prof pics classy, and your profiles super private. Sign out of all of them and then look at them to see what prospective employers might see. And think twice about friending/following anyone at your hopefully future school, at least for the time being- gotta keep a nice, professional persona rockin!

Check back SATURDAY for the last step in your interview prep process!

Veteran teachers, holler! What do you think prospective teachers should know about a school going into an interview? What makes you feel good about yourself prior to an interview? Where would you draw the line on social media?