Cue the sighing

.... and cue the behavior plan, the documentation forms, and the PRAYING.

Because today? Today I got the news that Gilberto is coming to our school after all. It turns out that his mom got confused about the zip code and he is still within our district boundaries, even though they've moved.

My colleagues have been saying encouraging things to me all day (after their laughter died down, that is):
"He was so much better at the end of last year!"
"Maybe he'll have matured!"
"I'll pray for him..."

So I guess the Lord is going to give me the strength to teach Gilberto! I've been trying to stay positive about the whole thing - to remind myself that I CAN do this - to accept the situation with grace and professionalism.

But I'll be honest. Part of me wants to throw a little hissy fit.

Teacher = Miracle Worker

Yep. I'm about at that point where I take stock of the students on my caseload and the learning expectations, and declare that I'm expected to make miracles happen. I mean, how else am I going to get 5 kindergartners and 3 first graders who are at least a year behind grade level up to speed? 

It's easy to get overwhelmed - especially when you add all of the other pressures of teaching into the mix.

It's at times like these where I need to slow down and get back the right perspective. Twenty years down the road, my students are not going to remember if they mastered rhyming words in Kindergarten. They won't remember if they got all caught up by the end of the academic year.

But what they will remember? Me. 

Was I the stressed out teacher who didn't have time to smile? The teacher who gave them an endless stream of worksheet packets? The teacher who often raised her voice in frustration?

Or was I the teacher who showed them I cared? Did I smile and laugh and slow down enough to follow their tangents sometimes? Did I go the extra mile to make a dry curriculum fun and engaging? Did I let them know they were loved?

I'm still striving to be the caring teacher, as overwhelmed as I feel sometimes!!

The jumble in my brain

Week One with the kiddos and here's what I think so far:

*My five kindergartners are so adorable. I literally could take them home with me!

*Grade Level Chair, member of the RTI team (which meets often), and Sunshine committee chair.... um, hopefully this isn't too much on my plate!

*Getting back into the school routine isn't easy. Going from 0 responsibilities to LOTS of them throws me for a loop!

*My teacher desk is already a war zone. Never mind all of my good intentions of keeping it clean...

*The bus situation has been handled and everyone is at school!

*Forget 40 minutes.... I need about 3 hours of planning to cross off my daily to-do list!

*I'm tired. Yesterday I almost used my foundation as deodorant!

*It's going to be a super busy year (what with teaching out of the kindergarten AND the first grade Language Arts curriculum), but... a GOOD one!

the miracle on my first day of school

I've been repressing something all summer. It's true. I knew I was going to have a first grader this year ("Gilberto") with a LOT of discipline problems. I know he has issues because I saw them first-hand last year.
Like his daily tantrums.
Like the time he punched another kid. 
Like the time he whacked the principal with some bulletin board paper trim.
And his teacher would marvel at all the TEACHING she could get done whenever he was absent from school.
But I didn't let it weigh me down. I thought "I'll deal with this when I get back to school." And then (miracle of miracles!) I actually forgot all about him and had a terrific summer!
Then Monday came: the first day the kids came to school. And as I drove to work, I thought "Gilbertooooooooooooooo". Then I sighed. Then I prayed:
"Lord, please give me YOUR strength to deal with Gilberto and all his behaviors... or else remove the problem completely."
So you can picture my utter shock and relief upon learning later that morning that Gilberto and his family had moved away to a different part of Texas!! I imagine God knew exactly what I would be able to handle and what I wouldn't!!!!

New (school) year resolutions

I don't know about you, but I'm not one for setting New Year's Resolution goals come December 31st. Never have been!


At the start of every SCHOOL year? I definitely set resolutions and goals for myself. So in honor of the first official day of school today, here are a few that I'm working on:

* Sending home a weekly newsletter. I especially feel this is important for my kindergarteners. I plan on using the free (and super cute) newsletter templates from The Mailbox. To access them for yourself, sign up for their "my mailbox" program for free!

* Writer's workshop. I hate teaching writing - I'm too easily overwhelmed by it. I'm hoping that organized mini-lessons and conferencing one-on-one will make it easier to handle!

* Daily 5 and CAFE. (This is a reading program structure.) I've done Daily 5 for the past two years and now it's time to add the CAFE component. Lucky me there are so many resources online to help me get good at it!

* Social- emotional vocabulary. This year we have a 15 minute window scheduled in for morning meeting. This will be a great opportunity for language learning for my students with hearing loss!

What about you? Any goals this year?

Oh no!! Where did all the kids go?

Picture this: It's your first day of Kindergarten. You have your backpack all ready to go; you've eaten a great breakfast, and you are wearing your shiny new clothes. You're waiting at the bus stop.

Except.... the bus never comes. 

This is going to be a reality for my students with hearing loss come Monday. We changed IEP software systems over the summer and not everyone's transportation information got switched over. And since we're a regional program, my kids are bused in from up to 30 miles away... which means if mom and dad both work, they can't just swing by the school to drop off their child!

We've been on the phone with transportation (who've been inundated with similar calls across the district) all week and still everything is up in the air. They don't have a timeline for when everyone's info will be switched to the new system.

Which means: not only is there a good chance that none of my nine kiddos will show up on Monday, they may not even show up the whole first week!!

Congratulations and Condolences

Congratulations and Condolences: This is what my husband had to give me last night when I told him what had happened.

That morning, I had been called into the principal's office. That always makes me want to pee my pants...

She started off telling me what an excellent teacher I was. Something about my "good ideas", and "organization". I was feeling really nervous at this point. When someone starts out by praising you, it's either because you're in trouble, or there's bad news, or they need something from you.

Sure enough, then she asked me if I would be the Kindergarten Grade Level Chair.

The Grade Level Chair (GLC) has to attend a monthly meeting and is responsible for communicating directives from the administration to grade level team members. The GLC also has to coordinate things like field trips and other affairs.

I said I would do it (although I didn't really have much of a choice!), even though I'm a deaf education teacher who is split between Kindergarten AND First grade. Apparently my principal thought I would be better suited for this job than my three other Kindergarten colleagues.

So I'm flattered that she thought I was worthy! But I despair over the extra responsibility!

In honor of my first day back

Today is my first day back to school for my seventh year as a teacher. (I have a week of professional development meetings before the kids arrive.) Although I like my job and am happy with my career choice, I just have to say.... NOT working is always more fun than working!

I very much enjoyed my summer (how is it over already? I blinked and then it was gone!), but I couldn't resist creating this graph to represent how my summer seems to go. I pretty much stole the idea from something my husband said!

A Teacher's Summer

Whaddaya think? Is this you? Or are you better about living in the moment?

lots of fun between 33 hours of driving

For the past three weeks, we've been visiting family in New Jersey and Maine. Yes, we drove from Texas. Yes, we are insane! I took 406 pictures and wanted to share just a few with you here:

 Chocolate covered bacon - YUM

 A Princeton campus tour

 At Otto's Pizza - it was amazing!

 Ice cream in downtown Portland, ME

Hot dogs around the campfire with my brother and sister 

 Mom and Dad: we took this picture especially for you. Doesn't this bring back memories? 
Only this time we're not fighting back there!!

The whole gang

School starts tomorrow. I'm so glad I have such fun memories to look back on!!

what to say for back-to-school, a list of do's and don'ts

If there's a teacher in your life who's going back to school very soon, here's a little list of things to say, and things better left unsaid.

Things to say:

1. It'll be okay.
2. You'll be fine once you get in your routine.
3. The kids will be so happy to see you!
4. Are you having fun going back-to-school shopping?
5. It's so great that you got all that time to rest and recuperate!
6. I hope you have a great year and a great class!
7. Wow, where did the summer go?
8. It'll be okay.

Things NOT to say:

1. Welcome back to the real world of work.
2. It's about time you got off the couch!
3. So... you'll start actually earning that paycheck now?
4. It's about time!
5. Don't be such a baby.
6. Aren't you soooooo excited to go back to school?
7. My kids have been wild! I can't wait to send them back to school!
8. Only 180 more school days to go until next summer!

Well? Did I leave anything out?

It all started with a cake fight

Nine years ago today, I married my honey! Here's the cake fight that started it all:

(If you want more of our love story, read here!)

It was definitely a magic moment! If it weren't for this cake fight, we may never have gotten married! I love everything about this picture: the joy, the fun, the utter candidness. I'm so lucky to have married my best friend!

advice for a new teacher

I had a new reader recently email me to ask for advice for "hopeful special education teachers-to-be". It made me think about my six years in various special education placements.

It really boils down to two three important pieces of advice:

1. A happy and healthy teacher is a more effective teacher. 
You will quickly find out that you could spend 24/7 in your classroom and STILL not get everything done that you wanted to do. There's always something you could be doing better. Do yourself a favor and set boundaries on your time. During my first year of teaching, I came home at 5 PM everyday (kids were dismissed at 3) whether I was "done" with my work or not. It saved my sanity, and it may well have saved my marriage. The workload gets slightly easier after the first few years, but maintaining balance is always crucial.

2. Always remember: you are teaching children, not curriculum!
Good ol' Mr. Rogers said it best: 
It's easy to convince people that children need to learn the alphabet and numbers. How do we help people to realize that what matters is how a person's inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life?

What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of war or the description of a sunrise, and his numbers for the final count in Buchenwald or for the specifics of a new bridge.
3. Hang in there!
There are going to be days that you are going to wonder "Why in the world am I doing this? I did NOT sign up for this!!". There are going to be days where you are so tired, you won't remember how to spell your last name. Days when it feels like the whole world is against you: parents, students, colleagues, administrators, President of the United States. Days when you've made 4,000 decisions and don't have it in you to answer a simple yes-or-no question at the dinner table. On those days remember: "I am choosing to make a difference in the lives of children society would rather forget. However hard, however stressful, however tiring, it is worth it. The kids are worth it."

What important piece of advice would you give a new teacher?

(mis)adventures with my sewing machine

I made this half apron (from a tutorial using two pillowcases) as a little hostess gift for my sister:

It's a good thing it's not something you wear outside of the house because the stitching is anything but straight (I even had to glue down a section in the back). Oh and the pocket flaps are frayed because I forgot to fold it under before sewing. Um, and the pockets may be slightly uneven.

But other than that, totally cute! Plus she's my sister so she has to like it...

School is the new "s" word

I'm trying VERY hard to live in denial that this upcoming week is my last week of summer vacation. (I am unashamedly greedy about my time off!)

We've been having a fabulous time with my sister and her husband in New Jersey. They complain it's hot here, but it's a full 20 degrees cooler than what we left behind in Texas! I have lots and lots of pictures to share as soon as I get them off my camera... So for now, words will have to do:

We've been...

eating out
playing pool
going to the beach (yay Jersey shores!)
cooking fantastic meals
crafting the day away
visiting with old high school friends passing through town
walking around New York City
eating homemade ice cream

And tomorrow the four of us will drive up to Maine to visit my younger brother. I haven't seen him in TWO YEARS!!! So I'm excited. It will also be my first time tent camping. (Wish me luck!)

Hope you're all enjoying what's left of your summer!!

10 steps to a happy September

Ten Steps to a happy September (or August if you go back early like us Texas teachers):

1. Develop short term amnesia: forget about all of that summer fun, it's all behind you now. It's over. Pretend it never happened.

2. Prepare your classroom ahead of time.

3. Find an organizational system that works for you, and then USE IT!

4. Remember to go to bed early, as in before it even gets dark.

5. Refrain from working 14 hour days, even though the temptation is there.

6. Remind yourself of all of those great activities you found over the summer that you were going to try this year. Do at least one!

7. Drill those routines and procedures into your students until you're blue in the face!

8. Suck up to your principal, the school secretaries, and the janitorial staff.

9. Remind yourself of all the happy parts of teaching. Focus on those. Smile.

10. Refrain from counting down until the next summer break!!
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