Don’t forget to document your phone conversations!

Phone Log Documentation

As a Special Education teacher, I know how important it is to document everything, but I will be the first to admit that when things get crazy I don’t always do the best job of logging my phone conversations. Sometimes a parent calls when I’m not right by my desk, or when I’m rushing out the door to pick up my own kids from school. I scribble some notes on the first piece of paper or Post-it note I can find, and drop it in my file. This year I vowed to have a more systematic way of logging phone conversations, and making sure that I was following up with parents. Sometimes there are things I need to do on my end before I follow up with parents, so I create this phone log with that in mind. I plan to make a binder that I can keep near my desk or take with me to log conversations as they happen. Worst case scenario, if I have to grab a scratch piece of paper, at least I will have a central location to transfer the information to once I am able to do so. With only one call per page, it will be easy to copy if needed for inclusion in a student’s file or evidence of communication should any disputes arise.

Nominated for TWO Liebster Awards!

I want to thank Mandi at Life with Middle Schoolers and Danielle at Oh, My Science Teacher! for both nominating me for a Liebster Award! I feel like I must be doing something right. This award is given to bloggers who have less than 200 followers. It helps other bloggers get to know us “newbies” and helps circulate great new blogs for all to read!

There are a few rules/guidelines:

  1. You have to link back to the blog(s) that nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions posted by the person that nominated you.*
  3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5 more blogs that have less than 200 followers.
  5. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answers.

11 Questions…Answered

*Since I was nominated by two different bloggers, I’m going to pick a selection of 11 questions from each of their blogs! It takes a long time to answer these questions!

1. What’s your guilty pleasure?

I love to sit outside at Starbucks with a Pumpkin Spice latte, people watching and enjoying the crisp fall air.

2. What’s your favorite part of starting the school year?

I love meeting my students and meeting the teachers that I will be working with. There is so much positive energy at the beginning of the year. I wish I could bottle it up and save it for February!

3. What’s the worst thing about starting the school year?

Getting up early and getting everybody back into a our school routine.

4. What advice would you give to teachers for starting the new school year?

Take the time to organize yourself now because three weeks from now, you won’t have time! Putting in the extra work to plan and prepare seems tedious, but the payoff is huge. Many new teachers skip the planning part because they think that they have it “all in their head”. You don’t. You are a better teacher when you plan.

5. What is your favorite professional book?

I am constantly referring to my book “Behavior Management” by John Maag.

6. Where did you study and what was your degree in?

I have a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I also have a Master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, plus I’m just 3 credits away from another Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in Art Education.

7. How many years’ experience do you have?

I will be starting my 4th year of teaching. I also spent also spent 3 year working as a para-educator which was trial by fire and a great learning experience. I have a lot of respect for paras.

8. What is your opinion on the Common Core?

I have lived and taught in two of the five states (Nebraska and Texas) that don’t use Common Core, so I’m not as familiar with it as I probably should be. I am anxious to learn more about it.

9. Give me a book recommendation and tell us why.

The best book I read this summer was “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer. I love books that turn familiar stories on their head, and make you look at it from a different perspective. This book is part of the Lunar Chronicles. I also love series because I when I finish one book, I can move on to the next one!

10. Coffee VS tea?

Coffee, for sure! My Verismo machine will definitely be accompanying me to school this year.

11. Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

The glass is always half-full. There is no point in going through life any other way!

11 Random Facts

  1. I start every morning with a cup of coffee.
  2. I drive a stick shift.
  3. My first major in college was Biology.
  4. I recently moved to from Nebraska to Texas.
  5. I have at least five machines/methods for making coffee in my house.
  6. I have travelled across country with two small children in the car and made it home alive.
  7. I hate high-heels.
  8. I hoard fabric.
  9. My husband is from Brazil.
  10. I have a basic proficiency in Portuguese.
  11. My favorite station on Songza is “Sunshine Indie Pop”!

Bloggers you should follow

  1. Surviving and Thriving: Teaching Middle School Social Studies
  2. Middle School Stories
  3. Middle School Teacher to Literacy Coach

11 Questions…Asked

  1. What made you decide to start a blog?
  2. What made you go into teaching?
  3. How many years have your been teaching?
  4. What do you teach?
  5. What would you do if you weren’t a teacher?
  6. Have you ever been to another country?
  7. Do you speak any other languages?
  8. What advice do you have for new teachers?
  9. What is your favorite lesson?
  10. What is your favorite app or technology for the classroom?
  11. What was the best thing you did this summer?

New Teacher To-Do List for Special Education Teachers

If you are a special education teacher, the beginning of your year looks a little differently than it does for the content area teachers. Unless you are teaching an intervention class, you probably don’t have a room to prepare and you aren’t busy thinking about lesson plans. It can feel like there really isn’t anything to do except get your office organized and wait to meet your students. At least that is how I felt my first year. I didn’t know where to start.

While there is an element of waiting involved because you need to assess the students on your caseload before you can really begin any intervention, there are some things you can be working on during those teacher workdays to get yourself ahead of the game.

1. Get your caseload. First things first: you need to know who your students are before you can really start doing much of anything. Your Special Education coordinator should have this information, more or less, by the start of the school year. There are always little last minute changes, but you should have a solid list by the time you show up for teacher workdays.

2. Make student files/folders. I like to have one manila folder to keep each student’s important data. Don’t make it complicated, or you won’t use it.

SPED manilla folder

3. Figure out your student’s class schedules. This is also a good thing to staple onto the front your student folder, and stick a copy in your teacher binder. This comes in handy when you are trying to locate students for progress monitoring.

4. Create your teacher information binder.

Teacher Binder

5. Write a letter to parents, introducing yourself as their child’s case manager. It’s good to make that first connection early. Starting out on the right foot with parents will set your year up for success. Open communication between parents and teachers is essential when it comes to helping your students meet their IEP goals for the year.

image

6. Familiarize yourself with your student’s IEP and MDT information. This is a great way to get to know your students before you meet them. You can learn their strengths, what they worked on last year, and most importantly their goals for the upcoming year. It is also a good idea to note if you have any yearly review meetings right of the bat, so you can get everything in order. **More on that in a future post!**

7. Locate the assessment materials you will need for progress monitoring. Sometimes these can be hidden away in a book closet, or have been unintentionally hoarded by another teacher (gasp!). Ask around. Find out what your school and your district approves for math, reading, and writing probes. You will probably receive some information about this at new teacher orientation. You will want these materials ready to go in the first couple weeks so that you can assess where your students are at, and use the assessments to begin working on strategies with them.

7. Introduce yourself to your co-teachers, and schedule a time to plan together. Take the initiative and get this relationship off to the best start. A great co-teaching relationship can be a wonderful experience, but an poor one can make your year seem 18 months long. Show your co-teacher that you are ready and willing to jump in and be by his/her side, not standing in the back of the room.

Hopefully, this will help new Special Education teachers figure out where to start on those first few days. Don’t worry, once the year gets going, you won’t have any trouble finding things to do!!

I’m live on Teachers Pay Teachers!

I love Teachers Pay Teachers. As I was working on my beginning of the year things, I started playing around with making them more…attractive. Then, I decided that if I was going to go to that much work to make my stuff look nice, I might as well share. I don’t expect to join the 20K club anytime soon, but I would be happy if you found the stuff I made useful and shared with your teacher friends! Go check out my Special Education Teacher Binder on TpT and let me know what you think. Thanks!Image

Beginning of the year: Teacher Binders

Teacher BinderThere is nothing like hitting the ground running, only to realize that the group left an hour ago. That’s why getting organized right from the start is so important. There are so many ways to organize your stuff. Most of my masters are on my USB drive, which has made it easy to move from one place to another. I also keep a school binder, so that I have all of my important information for the year in one place. Last year, our school actually gave every teacher a school binder which I thought was brilliant, but you can easier make your own. There are lots of great tutorials and resources online from which to choose. I also usually have separate binders for my student data (because I teach Special Education, and I have a lot of it!), and my behavior monitoring/goal-sheet data. I have also found binders useful for keeping blackline masters handy and easily accessible.

There are some great resources out there on TpT for teacher binders and classroom organizers aimed specifically at middle school/high school teachers. I’ve listed some of my my favorite below. You can also find a great example of how to organize your binder by clicking in the image above from Beyond the Grades.

1.  I found this classroom organizer from The SuperHERO Teacher on TpT. It is fully editable in PowerPoint, and contains over 70 pages to get your year started right. I choose the black/white one because printing in color can be really expensive, but she has other cute color combo’s if you want!

Back to School Binder SuperHero Teacher

2. This editable Sub Binder is also from The SuperHERO Teacher. No one plans to be gone in the first couple weeks, so this can get overlooked. It’s better to be prepared, than to have to scramble to through things together if you have an emergency come up.

Back to School Sub Binder SuperHero Teacher

3. Finally, there is this fantastic Back-to-School Binder from Presto Plans. It has 90 pages of organizational goodness, and it comes both blue/grey chevron and black/pink zebra print!

Middle School Teacher Binder

Do you have an awesome way to organize all of your things at the beginning of the year? Share out in the comments! Also, be sure to follow my blog and like me on Facebook and Pinterest. Thanks!

Classroom Organization Tips

The school year is just around the corner. It is about this time every year that I start to really think about how I want to organize my classroom. I will be in a new classroom this year, and while some may be dismayed at the thought of changing classrooms, I always look at it as an opportunity to reassess my organization strategies. My biggest challenge is organizing myself in a way that is simple enough to maintain when the year really gets going. I have found some ideas around the web that are definitely worth a look. (There are some amazingly organized teachers out there!)

1. Daily work files: Create daily work files at the beginning of the week with lesson plans, all the copies you need, and any supplemental material. I did this last year, and it was a life saver. It is especially helpful if you switch classrooms during the day, or if you happen to be gone unexpectedly.

 Back Camera

 

2. Have a place to put missed work. Teach students to be responsible for finding missed lessons when they are absent or out of the classroom by utilizing a system like this pocket chart, or an absent bin. (Of course, with all the engagement we will be doing in our classrooms, it will be hard to put it in a file folder!)

Missed work hanging filesAbsent bin

 

3.  Color code your room. I am a visual person, so I love this idea! This middle school math and science teacher from To the Square Inch share her strategy for keeping things organized by using one color for each class, so that student can quickly locate their guided notes, supplies and know where to put their homework. Brilliant!

color coordinated classroom

4. Make supplies accessible.  If you use collaborative teaching groups in your classroom, this one is for you. We know that middle school students will take advantage of every opportunity to get out of their seats, so bring the supplies to them! I have also seen this done with crates that sit in the middle of each pod.

bookcase station

5.  Crates, drawers, and containers…oh, my! You can’t have enough of these invaluable items in your classroom. If things have a designated location, they will have a better chance of making it back to that location. Let’s face it middle school teachers, we could take a lesson or two from our elementary friends when it comes to cute and organized, right? Kindertrips, Following my Heart to First (she used to be a 6th grade teacher!), and this amazing site about Getting Organized have some really creative ways to get your year started off right.

Organizing with crates

I hope you found something useful that you can incorporate into your classroom this year! Be sure to follow my blog here and on Facebook for more great resources and stories about middle school! If you are a Texas middle school teacher, I would love to add your blog to my collection, and have you contribute to this blog! Let’s connect!

Welcome!

WelcomeWelcome to my blog! Whether you are a Special Education teacher, or just someone interested in education,  I hope that you will find the information here helpful. This blog is growing and changing based on current education issues, and reader interest. Please let me know what you are interested in knowing more about. If you would like me to add your education blog to my site, email me and I will make it happen.  Together we can build a great meeting place for Special Education teachers and General Education teachers to connect and collaborate with each other in ways that can only improve our teaching and foster learning in our students. Thanks for reading, sharing and contributing. I can’t wait to see what we come up with this year!

-Kelly

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