Sunday, November 25, 2012


It is November 25, the day before I head back to school after a busy Thanksgiving break.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed about this blog, as it has been two months since I've posted.  There has been a lot going on and I am not sure how to proceed.  Without becoming tedious about the last couple of months, I'll just say that October was my crucible.  As a first-year teacher, October is typically a bad month, I am told.  For me, I wasn't sure how I was going to make it!  One of my aides left for a whirlwind tour of Turkey, Israel, and Greece in early October.  It was her life-long dream to go on this trip, and I knew she was going to have the time of her life.  As for the classroom, we had a very capable substitute teacher to take her place.  However, the day she left for her trip, my other aide gave her two weeks' notice.


Sooo, on top of having one aide out, I needed to find another.  In the midst of that dilemma, I also had a couple of classes to take for my alternative certification program.  I had online classes to complete for the district.  I had several trainings to take--in addition to writing lesson plans, taking data, and getting ready for an Admission, Review, Dismissal (ARD) meeting.  AND, in the midst of all this fun stress, I got a new student. 

I should also add that I had my formal evaluation during this month. Because I'm a first year teacher, I've been observing other SPED classrooms and I've had a campus mentor observing my class.  At one point, I'd had three visitors in my room in one day.  Let's just say, I'm glad October is over.  It took some time to resolve my first dilemma of finding a new aide, but I am so happy to say that a good friend of mine accepted the position and has already been a tremendous help to me.  Things worked out for good.

I passed my classes, completed my trainings, and my formal evaluation came out very well.  I took my last teacher exam on Nov. 19th, and I passed it.  I'm breathing a bit easier, though I have to admit that I really needed this break.

I'm still very grateful to be teaching.  I still love my class.  At times, though, I really wish that this job were a bit more manageable.  I create most of my classroom resources.  It takes a ton of time and money.  I've got a stack of tasks needing to be laminated and assembled for my students to use.  The bright side is that my students are showing progress.  I have high expectations of them, and they are doing so well.  I know that a year from now, I'll feel a bit more confident about this position.  At the very least, I won't have so many observations of me and for me to do.  My first year teacher academy will be over.  I'll have compiled a lot of resources and will have completed lesson plans that I can use next year. 

If I can just hang in there, I am certain that next year will be better.  At least, I hope so!

Many blessings,


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Patience, Or the Lack Thereof

A lot of people have assumed that I have a great deal of patience.  It seems to be a common assumption, because my fellow Special Ed. teachers tell me that they often hear "You must be so patient to do what you do!"  I feel like I need to set the record straight.  I don't think that I am any more patient than the average person; I think I am just patient in certain situations.

For example, I am patient with the screaming, spitting, kicking, hitting child who is frustrated because she can't communicate what she's feeling.  She is imprisoned by the physical limitations of her mouth and tongue--not her brain.  I get that.  We all have things that handicap us from saying what we feel or think.  For most of us that are able-bodied, we handicap ourselves with fear of what others will think or do.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.  But it can be, and when it holds us back or keeps us from being understood, then it is a very bad thing.  So, when I am maintaining my composure in the midst of a child's meltdown, it is because I imagine how hard it must be for her to feel something, but not be able to say it. 

Generally speaking, I am patient with children.  I think that this is mostly because they don't know better.  As the old saying goes, "When you know better, you do better."  I find that as children get older and should know better, I get less patient.  I also find that if I am very tired, I have very little patience.  Sleep does wonders for our ability to persevere.  I make it a point to try and get as much sleep as I can.  The times in my life when I am the least patient with my own children are those times when I am exhausted, and maybe a little frustrated, and I have my own little meltdown.  It happens.

On the other hand, I find as I get older that my patience wears thin with certain things.  I don't like it when others are disrespectful.  I don't like drama.  I hate it, actually.  I think that we are becoming a society quick to turn little things into big ones.  I think that the simple courtesies in life are becoming quaint notions of the past:  Being polite; being kind; treating others the way you would want to be treated; etc.  All Biblical values, by the way.  I think that one of the frustrations that I have with the life we lead is the transient nature of people in general.  If I don't like something, I'll just get rid of it and get another--that can be anything from an iPad to a friend.  If I don't like how things are going here, I'll go there.  We don't really have to work out our differences, we'll just avoid the problems altogether by moving on to greener pastures.  So, the pastures we leave behind become malnourished due to inattention.  We leave behind fallow land, looking for a fertile valley. 

So, am I a patient person?  Maybe not as much as you think.  I enjoy working with children with special needs, frankly, because I like to work in a career that is rife with miracles.  There is the potential to see amazing things every day.  I dig that.  I think it's cool that I get to do this.  But, I'm no saint, as my family and close friends will attest.  I think I just have a lot of self-control....

Many blessings,


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Busy times in SPED

Since school began on August 27, I've been a very busy girl.  In three weeks time, my students have learned our new classroom routine and hallway procedures.  For the first two weeks I didn't have any curriculum materials, so I was creating lessons and scrambling for materials.  We got printer access at some point in week 2, so by week 3 (last week), I was able to teach my higher functioning students how to send Word documents to the computer lab down the hall.  These same students have now learned how to insert clip art into a document (they knew how to insert pics from Google, but I am teaching them some basic Word processing commands). 

We have done a couple of fun projects in class.  Since my class involves vocational/life skills, I have been putting together center activities that are designed to simulate a vocational environment.  My first life skills box is a first aid kit:

I've put the instructions under the lid:
You'll notice that I've got real-life pictures of the items that go inside the bag, or first aid kit.  I began by explaining to the students that sometimes when we go out on trips, we get injured or hurt.  It is good to have things on hand in case we get hurt.  The students responded so well, and even the students with the greatest challenges were able to participate by filling their bags.  You'll also notice that the instructions specify the number of items that go in each bag.  This helps my students who are still learning to count.
Unfortunately, I'm having trouble uploading more pics.  I have pictures of my light table that I'd like to share, and I have some pictures of my science area, as well.  I will also have to post pictures of the personal care kits that we put together today.  The students folded laundry last week--just wash cloths, but I was pleased to see how well some of them did.
My alternative certification program hasn't wasted any time, either.  I've had my first evaluation already!  It went very well, thankfully--despite technical difficulties and having one of my aides out sick.  My evaluator complimented me on my skill in the class and my ability to manage so much going on.  I appreciated her assessment.  Soon, I'll be having my first formal evaluation by my administrator.  I have a couple of online courses to finish for my district and two more Saturday classes to take for my alt. cert. program.  It's going to be a fast and furious semester, and about the time I get my feet under me, I'll have STAAR testing to contend with (STAAR is the high-stakes test administered in Texas). 
For now, I'm tired.  I'm taking each day one at a time, with a keen eye on what's ahead.  I'm doing my best to stay organized.  Hopefully, I won't miss anything! ;)
Many blessings,

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Blessed First Day

I'm not absolutely certain that any teacher feels like everything is perfect for their first day of school.  I do think that most teachers feel like they are ready for the first day.  I woke up this morning ready to go to work.  My classroom was set up, I had the knowledge and information that I needed, and my lesson plans and schedule were in place.

Everything went well.  I love, love, love my students.  My schedule worked out perfectly.  The children enjoyed the activities and I got a great response to my light table and iPad games and books.  Was it perfect?  Oh, no.  But it went well.  I am getting to know my students and I know that absolutely, unequivocally I am blessed.  I wish I could show the pictures I took of my students, but I can't.  If you saw them, you'd agree that they are precious.

Jesse and Lily had a great first day, as well.  They love their teachers, and I am so pleased to have been able to see them throughout the day.  I got to see them during both lunch and recess for a short time.  They come to my class at the end of the day and have snacks and play.  This whole situation has turned out better than I could've hoped for. 

Jacob and Matthew had a good first day, as well.  However, Mom doesn't take "first day" pictures when you're in 9th and 12th grades.  ;)  It seems crazy to me that Jacob is in his last year of high school!  Have two high schoolers blows my mind...
Though my feet hurt and I am very tired, I am happy.  I asked one of the deacons at church for a blessing for today, and I definitely feel blessed.  Now, to go back tomorrow and have another good day...
Many blessings,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Learning Takes Us Places!

The classroom is really taking shape.  Brian and I worked on it this weekend.  He helped me put up this bulletin board, which turned out really well.  Underneath the table is the light table, which is not quite finished.

We went to IKEA this evening and purchased some LED lights and a support structure to support the lights underneath the table.  I'll post pictures when it's finished.  Brian and Jacob will be putting it together in the next day or so, before our "Meet the Teacher" Day on Thursday afternoon.  I've got several sensory/fine motor activities to use with the table, and I'm anxious to get it all set up.  Light tables cost quite a bit of money, but if this works out, we'll have made one at less than half of the cost.

Lily, Jesse, and their friend, Jett had fun playing games on the computer while we worked.

It's been a real challenge to get the classroom together when I've been involved in training nearly every day.  I really appreciated Brian coming up on the weekend to help me.  The kids have come up to help me, too. :)

I came in on Thursday of last week, and the ladies that I work with in the classroom, the paraprofessionals in the class, had brought in the colorful rugs seen in the pictures below.  They really add the bright colors that the classroom needs. 

Brian mounted the lights above the cabinet.  They provide a nice, soft light when the fluorescents are turned off.

My projector is now tilted downwards, toward the SMART Board.  The rug defines the area where our morning activities and the reading area will be held.  The book shelf in the reading area was a hand-me-down from one of the teachers.  I felt that it was a bit too unstable to use in an upright fashion, but when laid on its side, works very well. I bought the canvas bins sitting on top of the book shelf at Wal Mart.  

Another sideways shelf. The rolling drawer cart was repurposed from another classroom, and the other AVLS teacher, Jazz, gave me the colorful shelves on the left.  In this free play area, I plan to have a bulletin board above the shelves that will feature student work.  I will store learning toys in bins in the shelving unit.  Science activities will be stored on the colorful shelves.
Brian got a really good deal on the fridge.  Students' snacks are stored in the drawer bins, and the microwave is one from our media room upstairs that we really didn't need.  We popped popcorn in it while we worked! :)

After it rained a week ago, we discovered a leak in the ceiling in my classroom.  After the extensive remodel, there were about 14 such leaks throughout the school.  We're really grateful to have found the leaks now, before the classroom was completely set up.  It does present a problem for me, though, in that I can't put up my bulletin board on that wall.   :(

Tomorrow, I'll be at a district wide training all day.  I really appreciate that my district gives us so much information and support.  It will certainly make my first year as a teacher easier, because I'm being given so much information to aid in making my first year successful.  

Each day, I am more and more amazed at how good God has been to us.  I am enjoying my work and I'm being made to feel welcome by my fellow faculty members.  I feel blessed beyond measure.

Many blessings,



Monday, August 13, 2012

Getting My Classroom Ready

The view of my classroom from the doorway.  As you can see, the Smart Board and projector are already mounted.  There is an intercom system to the right of the Smart Board, and my desk will most likely sit underneath it.

Construction is nearly finished at my school.  I was able to go and work in my classroom for a few hours Friday morning.  I cleaned, unpacked boxes, and began putting things away.  It was nice to finally have the opportunity to get into the class and start working.  There is still quite a lot to do.  I couldn't get into the school over the weekend, because the floors were being waxed.  I took a few pictures of the classroom before I left:

Empty shelves!

I love the windows!
The boxes in the center of the room are now unpacked, and a couple of the lockers are holding supplies.

The classroom has two large whiteboards.  The student computers will be on this end of the room.

Unpacked boxes---feels like an accomplishment!
While I was there, a group of young men brought down another cartload of boxes for me to unpack.

I managed to get a few things put away.  I'll need to purchase storage containers to organize the math manipulatives.

I will put a refrigerator and a microwave on top of this cabinet.  I have supplies in the drawers, and the box contains my laser printer.

I attended First Year Teacher Academy today and again tomorrow.  I won't be able to work in my class again until Wednesday.  I hope to bring the kids with me to help me get things sorted out and the rest of the boxes unpacked.  I need my strong boys to move tables and shelves around.  There are so many things I'd like to have for the class, but I have to pace myself and wait to see what I really need.  I have to admit that it is fun putting the class together.  I am so grateful for this job.  I worked several hours without a break and didn't even feel tired.  I think I was just so happy that it didn't feel like work.  :)

Many blessings,


Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Child With a Miracle In His Hands

Brian and I served as shepherds at Royal Ambassadors (RA's) and Girls in Action (GA's) camps this past week.  RA's and GA's are missions education organizations for school-aged boys and girls begun by the Women's Missionary Union over 100 years ago.  I have been helping out with the GA's on Wednesday nights, ostensibly because Lily is now old enough to join, and I wanted to share the experience with her.    Over the course of the last week at camp, we had the opportunity to participate in worship services every day.  The featured speaker was Pastor Russell Rogers, senior past or Trinity Life Baptist Church in Garland, TX.

Pastor Russell shared some wonderful messages.  I will be meditating on the Biblical truths shared and received during this last week for several weeks to come.  Since it is Sunday, I thought I might share a part of the message that Pastor Russell gave on Thursday evening.  The message comes from Mark 6:30-44, when Jesus feeds the 5,000.  The title of the message is "Brown Bag Special".  Pastor Russell read the focal passage, in which a little boy gave Jesus all of the food he had in order to feed the hungry crowd that had been listening to Jesus speak (We find additional information about this story in John chapter 6.  It is in this passage that we find that one of Jesus disciples, Andrew, brought a little boy to Jesus who had five loaves of bread and two fish). 

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[a]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Pastor Russell gave the following points: 
  • Jesus knew that the child held a miracle in his hands.
  • The boy gave what he had.
  • The boy have all he had.
  • Jesus used what he gave.
The boy had a choice before him.  He held enough food for himself and no one else.  If he gave half, everyone would be fully fed, except the boy, who would only get half a meal and would go away hungry.  If he gave all (which he did), then every need was met to abundance--for today and tomorrow! 

Pastor Russell said:  "Totally given means to take things out of our control and to place them in God's control." 

Finally, Pastor Russell asked us to evaluate what is in our bag; our talents, our gifts, and our possessions.  Jesus wants our obedience.  What will we give Him?

I liked that Pastor Russell emphasized the part of the child in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.  We often forget that the little boy is a part of the story.  I had never heard a sermon on this passage that illustrated how giving all of what he had satisfied everyone--including himself.  I liked the way that Pastor Russell spoke to the GA's, building them up where they are; their age, their gender, etc.  We often forget as adults that Jesus ministered to and through children.  This passage encourages me to remember to give my all to the Lord.  It also reminds me that Jesus will use whatever I give--no matter how feeble my efforts may be, He can take something that is small and increase it and make it abundant.

Many blessings,


P.S. Please check out Casey's Heart, a ministry to the homeless begun by Pastor Russell's son, Casey.  He shared the beautiful and heart-renching story of how the ministry began.