This is what happens when you're knee-deep in IEPs

Yesterday, I had to take an online training for work. It was about writing IEP goals/objectives and writing the PLAAFP statement (Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance). It was super relevant and helpful a colossal waste of my time. Truthfully, it was a little insulting.... because if you didn't understand the content of the training, you wouldn't be a special education teacher. It was like a good reader being made to learn the ABCs all over again.

Anyways, it got me to thinking about writing goals. Using the format I have to use for IEPs, what goals would I write for myself at this point in my life (as in, this week)? Here's what I came up with:

By the end of two weeks, given the 2006 Saturn Ion, Sarah will learn to drive a car with a manual transmission without grinding the gears in 9 out of 10 trials.

Within four days, given the "Encore" online IEP system, Sarah will finish two more IEPs and close seven more with 100% accuracy.

Within four days, given twelve hyper-active children, Sarah will end the school year gracefully without losing her mind for 3 out of the 4 days.

OMG! Homophones!

I was going through a stack of student work this morning and almost fell off my chair laughing when I saw this:

This was an assignment to illustrate sets of homophones and write a sentence for each one under their respective flap. One of my dear students wrote and drew this masterpiece for the word "weight":

And just in case you missed it:

Did you see the hand to the face? Priceless!

I'd like to come up for air, please

In an ironic twist of fate, our principal has generously allowed all of the teaching staff to leave at 3:15 instead of at 3:45, which is normally the rule. I would normally be jumping up and down with excitement, but when I tried I tripped over the the piles of paperwork needing my attention. So no leaving early for this teacher.

I've been busily writing and holding IEP meetings for my fifth graders transitioning to middle school. I've held six already this week and it's only Wednesday. I'm also in the middle of doing end-of-the year running records on all of my students. And we're in the midst of award assemblies and field days to top it all off.

So these days, I work through lunch, cross items off of my Master To-Do List only to add more on to it, walk really fast everywhere, and generally run around like a chicken with her head cut off.

The fact that the rest of my deaf-ed colleagues already have their classrooms packed up and materials ready for next year makes me want to scream for the hills....

June 4th can't come fast enough! Is your end of the school year this busy?

We like to do things backwards

Since moving into our new house at the end of August last year, we've been slowly furnishing it so it looks the way we want it to. Last weekend, we broke down and went to Ikea to get one last thing I felt that the living room was missing: a bookshelf. We got a "great" deal (let's not kid ourselves: it's just some particle board and some screws) and I was so excited about it that Max was kind enough to tackle putting it together right away!

And then I had fun filling it with all of our little treasures:

On the top of the bookshelf is a clock that belonged to Max's grandfather (a gift from GM, in fact!). On the first two rows are my scrapbooks and journals, some hand drawn paintings of various European cities, a handmade pottery vase (a wedding gift from a college roommate), and some wedding pictures. On the bottom two rows are Max's various textbooks: religion, languages, and psychology. Oh, and can you spot the cat? She's probably wondering if that will be a safe place to hide from the dog...

Here's the view from the other side of the living room:

Now we just need to cover up all of this nice furniture so we can paint the walls!!

Shiny new toy

I was very excited to have won the Mini-Mountain from Zillio Games recently! It came in the mail a few days ago, and when I saw it in person and read through the gazillion math games you can play on it (from basic counting and sequencing to complicated multiplication and division), well... Max can probably tell you that I was jumping up and down.

I brought it to school immediately and set to playing it right away with my two fourth graders. (Because, let's be honest, it's not like I actually had anything else planned for them!). I don't know who was more excited about our new game: me or the kiddos. Here are a few pictures of us playing three different games with it:

The games are simple, but it can be difficult to explain game rules to students with language impairments!

The foam numbers go up the steps by multiples of 1 through 12

I couldn't keep his hands off the mountain -- he LOVED playing with it!

In my five years of teaching, I've never come across such a versatile game. This is perfect for any resource room teacher out there who works with multiple grade levels or general educators who have the opportunity to work with small groups of children. It's also perfect for homeschooling parents as the games you play on it can grow with your child's skill!!

(And if you're wondering, I was NOT paid to write this post! I'm just totally in love with my new toy! Thanks, Zillio!!!)

I LOVE it when education can be fun!

Now where's my genie?

I wish...
  • that a certain math teacher hadn't interrupted my student SIX different times as he was retaking his standardized state test! (She just stood a few inches in front of him and watched him bubble in answers. Yeah.... not helpful!)
  • that tomorrow was the last day of school
  • that my classroom would de-clutter and organize itself
  • that eating vats of ice cream had no consequences
  • that I could speak Spanish and wouldn't need a translator to talk to a parent
  • that we lived closer to family and I could go to my nephew's first birthday party this weekend
  • that my seven IEPs would write themselves
  • that there was a Michaels or Joann's nearby -- I have to drive so far to get supplies for my store!
The good news is that this weekend is a three day weekend for me!

What are you wishing for today?

I should really start closing the door when I teach

I was teaching similes and metaphors to my fifth graders this morning. It was a rather difficult concept for them to grasp because of vocabulary and overall language issues. But I tried my darndest. I had a wonderful PowerPoint presentation complete with response cards that the students held up to identify which sentence was a simile, and which was a metaphor.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my kick-butt lesson.

And then we got to the end. The last slide said to get with a partner and come up with as many metaphors and similes about chocolate as they could. When the timer beeped, I checked their papers and it was pretty disastrous.

Exhibit A: "The chocolate is melty as a cow"

Exhibit B: "The chocolate is so good I like it and I also like chips and cookies and pizza and hamburgers...."

You see what I was dealing with here. I overestimated their readiness for this kind of activity.

So I quickly backtracked and explained in detail how to create a similes and metaphors. First, we made a list that described chocolate. We came up with: yummy, hard, brown, smooth, melty. Then we took the words one by one and thought of something else that was also smooth (for example) that we could compare it to. Then we made a simile: "This chocolate is as smooth as a feather".

Then we got to "brown".

"Okay", I told my kiddos, "think of something brown". All of my students looked around the room. Then I said: "Okay, now let's fill in the blank: 'This chocolate is as brown as....."


Then my whitest kid turns to my blackest kid and (very innocently and triumphantly) points at him and says "YOU!"

Birthday Boy

Yesterday was Max's birthday. That's him, pretending to pick his nose...

Anyway, I took the afternoon off and we went to see Iron Man 2. Then we came home, had pizza, and ate Phish Food, which is Max's new favorite Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor.

It was so fun, gallivanting around town yesterday afternoon, it really made me long for summer!!
Are we there yet?

Barking up the RIGHT tree

I've been throwing a tantrum for the last two hours or so. It's subtle, because I'm at school and I've got to keep it professional. But that doesn't mean I can't slam the paper tray on the printer or type really hard or stomp up the stairs. (I may be exaggerating slightly. Maybe.)
Why so angry, Sarah? Well, when the principal disagrees with a decision that I have recommended (a decision that the parent is in full agreement with me about), it gets me a little ticked. Furthermore, when the principal is motivated by test scores and "looking good" and not thinking about the child's best interest down the road? That's just not right. Oh, and for the principal to argue her point with me in the meeting when the parent is present? That's just unprofessional. And checking the box in the legal paperwork on the IEP that says "disagree" and promising to write up a professional report to go along with her disagreement? Childish!
I take some comfort in the fact that I had the full support of the special education diagnostician (my principal's superior!) during the meeting. When I talked to him afterwards, he said he was "going to have a little chat with the principal" later. It also makes me relieved that my direct boss (my deaf education administrator) was in full support of my recommendation.
So despite having Important People on my side, and despite knowing in my heart that I'm doing what's best for my student, the whole situation still ticks me off. I took a stand for what I knew was right, and now I'm going to be in the doghouse for it.
Here's to hoping my day only gets better from here on out.

A letter from a student

(For Teacher Appreciation Week -- written by a fifth grader moving on to another campus next year)
Mrs. B,
Thank you for being a Greatest teacher ever in my life. You always make me laugh when you do something wrong. Me and Deaf aid will miss you so much.

Stomaching stomach

When Cinco de Mayo falls during Teacher Appreciation Week, good things happen. Especially when your school population is 80% Hispanic and several moms are willing to throw the teachers a giant, homemade fiesta!!

I walked into the lounge today and was met with a delicious spread of tacos, enchiladas, tamales, queso, and three kinds of homemade salsa: hot, hotter, and set-your-mouth-on-fire.

I took samples of quite a few things, and after I had finished what was on my plate, I contemplated going back for more. I was sitting across from Ms. M (who also happens to be Hispanic) who seemed to be enjoying a cup of soup of some sort. When I asked her what it was, she said it was called "menudo" and that it was delicious.

So I went and got some.

It looked more like a stew than a soup. I ate quite a few bites since it was tasty, but after a while, the consistency of the unidentifiable meat started to bother me so I discreetly threw the rest of it away.

Ten minutes later, when I was back in my portable chatting with three other staff members, I asked my aide (also Hispanic) if she had tried the "menudo".

"The menudo? Do you know what's in that?" she looked at me skeptically.

"Um. No....."

"It's cow's stomach!" She couldn't stop giggling.

Another staff member shook my hand and congratulated me on my "bravery" ("I've never known a white person to go near the stuff!" she claimed).

My aide made me an honorary "brown person" (and she's allowed to say stuff like that because she's Hispanic...)

Then the speech pathologist made me this badge, which I wore with pride for the rest of the day:

Note to self: bring a Spanish-English dictionary to the next Cinco de Mayo potluck!

Let's just pretend these calories don't count

It's Teacher Appreciation Week!! I love that it falls right after my birthday.

I've taught at three schools in three states, and a common theme for this special week is Food in the Lounge. Nothing makes teachers happier (well, except summer break!). Do you have leftover junk food that you need to get rid of? Drop it off at your nearest elementary school. We will swarm your goodies like vultures until every last crumb is gone.

Another special treat given to us by the administration is permission to wear jeans. I get to wear jeans to work every single day this week (for free) and it is AWESOME. Having a job where you have to dress professionally makes you wish you could just be comfortable.

Now. Between the massive ice cream binges I indulged in over the weekend, and the goodies in the lounge, I'm hoping I don't gain ten pounds for my ten year high school reunion this summer!

Boasting and bawling

On Friday, I had to break the test results to my fifth graders. You know, the state standardized reading and math tests? The tests that are so important that every single staff meeting has been about them? The tests that are so important we forced struggling students to stay after school for two hours of tutoring on Tuesdays, Thursdays... and SATURDAYS?

Yes, those test results.

As it's kind of a big deal, I made sure to let the whole class know that:

1. I was proud of them for the amount of effort they put into to taking those tests (and how hard you try is ultimately more important in life than if you pass any one test)

2. They were not under any circumstances allowed to discuss with their classmates whether they passed or failed. [The last thing I want to deal with is boasting and bawling]

So then I broke it to them in a different room, one by one. The kids who passed were gleeful! Most passed at least one of the tests. I had one student who failed both the reading and the math. When I told him, he cried big crocodile tears.

I let the two students who failed the reading test know that I was going to be working with them for the next two weeks (until the state standardized retests) to give them a better chance of passing. We'll be working just the three of us for two hours after lunch (throwing off the rest of my schedule, but whatever, I'm just following orders).

The counselor pulled aside one of my boys to chat about the test results a little later in the day. She was kind enough to relay this conversation to me:

Counselor: "How do you feel about passing the math test?"

Student: "I feel so great. It's like I'm in a new magical place!!"

Counselor: "How do you feel about failing the reading test? I know you tried so hard and even stayed late after school to finish it"

Student: "[sigh] I'm really sad about it. But I'm happy to be working with Mrs. B. I know I will learn a lot from her."

When the counselor relayed this conversation to me (especially that last part), I wondered briefly how appropriate it would be to frame that quote and hang it behind my desk. Or get it embroidered on a pillow. Or printed on a t-shirt.

The most heartwarming type of praise is usually spoken from our students, isn't it?

The big 2-8

It's my birthday! This means that I'm another year older (thanks for the old lady jokes, Max!), but more importantly, it's a wonderful excuse to PIG OUT on all the food that makes me happy. Namely, ice cream.

On Friday, I celebrated with my colleagues by going to a frozen yogurt place where I gorged myself on 13 ounces of ice cream (and I was this close to going back for seconds!). Yesterday we went to this local place that milks their own cows for their ice cream. I had two scoops of mint chip and rocky road, and it was delicious! And who knows what today will bring? I've already opened such kind cards from family members (thank you!!). And I envision swimming in a vat of ice cream at some point before this day is done. Don't judge me. Eating ice cream is what distracts me from the ever-growing amount of gray hair on my head.

And... an ANNOUNCEMENT! I've opened up my very own Etsy shop (if you're not familiar with Etsy, it's like the of handmade goods) in an attempt to sell my handmade cards. It might be a total flop, or I might become a millionaire. Either way, it's been FUN so far!

Here's the link:

There's not a whole lot in the store just yet... I'll be adding new cards in the next few days. And don't you love the banner at the top of the store? My brother made that (he's crazy talented).

So today, I'm also celebrating the birth of my business (my tiny, microscopic, miniature business)!
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