Back to School Tip

It is the first week of school, and all the teachers are going through the school rules with their students.  You see them in the hallway, in the library, and in the cafeteria.  They are all standing at attention (even the kindergartners) listening attentively and being quiet.  BUT then there is your class.  Your class used to be my class.  The class with the kids that NEVER stand still or are quiet.  The class that takes more adults than kids to get from one place to another on the school property.  Yep, it is the special ed class.

I always hated those first few days of learning the school rules.  I knew I could not try to teach proper hallway behavior while staying in the classroom, it just would not generalize to the real situation.  I also knew that once we were out in the hallway, my kids would be so distracted and/or anxious that there was no way they could listen to me about proper hallway etiquette.  Then I found out about structured walks!

The  main issue with my students was they did not know what they were supposed to be doing in the hallway, and they had no idea how long it would be before they could get back to the safety of the classroom.  A perfect recipe for disruptive behaviors and anxious kids.  I started doing structured walks my second year.  It basically is set up like a scavenger hunt.  I would have someone place some pictures around the school in obvious locations, and the kids would have a blank template to show them how many pictures we were looking for.  We did talk about hallway behavior, but I found once they had a clear goal of what they needed to accomplish, and how long it would take (ie fill the 10 blank spots) most of the problem behaviors disappeared or lessened greatly.

I have included this link so you can download complete directions and a set of symbols to use on your own structured walk.  Try it, you might be surprised how a little structure can go a long way in eliminating problems and anxiety.


Re-purposing Old Calendars

So, I cannot take credit for the invention of this idea, but once I saw it, I ran with it.  My students loved matching tasks, and so did I.  It allowed me to gather some IEP data as well as allow them to do some work independently.  But, printing out those file folder games takes a lot of ink and access to a color printer which I did not always have.  So, I started using old calendars.

I would ask people to save me their calendars at the end of the year.  You need the ones that have the small pictures of each month on the back.  Take the calendar apart and laminate each page.  The cut out and laminate the smaller photos.  Put Velcro on the back of the small photos and on the large pages.  I was lucky enough to be able to have access to a binding machine at school, so I would bind them together, but you could use metal rings as well.  I also liked to make a quick holder for the smaller photos using an old piece of cardboard with, yes, more Velcro.

I made HUNDREDS of these over the years.  The kids absolutely loved the photos, especially if I could get some cool calendars like Thomas the Train or other favorite character.  I also had some calendars that the months were in color and the small photos were in black and white.  That just bumped up the difficulty level a notch for my more advanced learners.  In addition, some people gave me some really challenging ones like different types of grapes or stained glass patterns.  They were not always easy to differentiate what each month was.  Every single student I taught did these calendars for morning work or part of their independent working time, and every single student I had loved them.

I hope you will try this quick and easy way to make your own vibrant matching tasks without having to print a single thing!!

Social Media Overload

So I have been on teacherspayteachers for a few years now.  Up until this year, I really did not devote much time or attention to my store.  I realized what a great venue it could be, but I was more a user of the website than active participant or author.  When we moved to PA last year, that changed, and I dove into recreating products that I had tested successfully for years in my classroom.  Honestly, there is almost no ready-made, published materials available for teachers who work in severe and profound settings.  It is truly sad.  So, I knew this would be a worthwhile venture for all involved.  I literally spent the next year crafting over 150 products.  My sales went up, but nothing extraordinary.  So, as year 2 of my “sabbatical” begins, I feel I need to refocus my energies, and find a way to connect with more teachers in the same situation I was in.

First, let me say I am NOT a social media fanatic.  Up until we moved, I did not have a Facebook page, nor a Pinterest account.  Now I have both.  But I want to talk a little about pinterest in this blog entry.  I am such a horrible pinner.  I admit it, and beg forgiveness for whomever has stumbled previously upon my page (  I just did not get it, nor did I put the time and effort into understanding this platform.  Well, I have spent the last 2 weeks getting educated!!  It is truly an amazing resource full of some of the best ideas I have ever seen.  I have watched some tutorials, read other blog posts, and listened to some webinars all in an effort to become someone you would want to follow.

It will be a process.  I have a lot to clean up on my site, and that will take some time.  But, with the few changes I have made, I have already had some people reach out to me and ask me to collaborate with them on their boards.  I am honored.  I am humbled.

I promise from this point forward to be a good steward to this powerful social media presence which is the biggest driver of buyers to teacherspayteachers.  And, without buyers, I might as well just close my store down and read a good book.

Summer School : 2015

Friday was the last day of summer school for Jimmy in 2015.  It is the first time he has ever had the opportunity to continue his educational experience during the summer months.  As many of you know, we moved to Pennsylvania from North Carolina one year ago.  I was terrified leaving all of Jimmy’s support network and sad leaving all of our family behind.  BUT….  it was the best thing that ever happened for the four of us.  We still miss family and friends, but we have been able to visit and family has even ventured up this way!

So, one of the absolute best changes for Jimmy was the school system here.  This is in no way meant to be negative towards all the wonderful teachers, adults, and therapists who helped Jimmy from grades PreK though 10th grade.  You all did the absolute best you could with what you had.  But here, it is just so different.  Jimmy is in a school surrounded by so  much support and experts in the field of autism.  Every activity, every minute of every day is meant to maximize his potential and build his independence.  And the best thing….  that support continued throughout the summer with the same 8-2 school hours, 5 days a week, with the same teachers and assistants there ready to go.  Sure, he still had some meltdowns.  I still had to sign restraint and IEP waiver forms, but that is all the nature of the beast.  I never got a call.  I never had to drive 30 minutes to the school to pick him up.  They were equipped to handle whatever Jimmy threw their way.  Most importantly he loved it.

Of course, for me, it meant a few more precious weeks of freedom.  My days of freedom are quickly coming to an end.  I have just 3 years left before Jimmy is done with the school system.  After that, I don’t know.  He is still pretty tough to handle if you don’t know what you are doing.  So, the future is very uncertain.

For now, I am beyond thankful for the summer of 2015 and all it afforded me to accomplish for myself.  Now it will be down to NC to visit with family and relax at the lake for a couple of weeks!!