Our First Week Back!

Wow! It has been a fantastic first week of school here! I have never had a year begin so smoothly. Hopefully, this a good omen of the months to come.

We started our week on Tuesday since Monday was Meet the Teachers day. One of our parents was kind enough to mention that “You know your child’s teacher is in the right place when Meet the Teacher is more of a family reunion, and the kids are actually excited to start back to school.” I was so happy to hear her view the day that way; although I do have a bit of an advantage since I keep my students for 3 years in a row.

Tuesday started with a rush of FM equipment assignments. How do you manage your hearing equipment monitoring and organization? I have 13 students in my school who use FM equipment in addition to their hearing aids and/or cochlear implants. 12 of them keep their equipment in my room, and that’s a lot of chargers, wires, transmitters, and individually programmed receivers to keep sorted. It took a bit of practice, but I think I have gotten my students trained to the system of coming a few minutes early to school, going directly to my classroom, putting on and syncing their own receivers, providing an adult with the transmitter to do the Ling 6 sound check, and then marking their monitor documents themselves with the correct annotation to note if the equipment is working or if there was a problem. Then, at the end of the day, the students leave their class a few minutes early to return the equipment to my room and hook everything up to the chargers labeled with their initials. It is a smooth system that has worked for me the last 3 years. I will give more detail about this in a later post if there is interest. Do you do something different? I would love to hear about it?

In my self-contained classroom, all my kids were returning students, so I kept all my classroom routines and rules either the same or pretty similar. This made reviewing the procedures quick and easy. I addressed changes as the need arose so as not overwhelm any students. They were more receptive than I expected since some of my students with OHI (OCD) or ASD are typically highly resistant to changes in procedures.  There were really very few classroom changes though.

I started right in on academics on Wednesday.In 8th grade science, our unit is “Our Changing Earth: Structures and Processes.” We are learning about the layers of the Earth, plate tectonics, and continental drift for the next two weeks. 7th grade is doing a chemistry unit, but in my room, we will only be studying the 4 states of matter and then the difference between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures. The rest of it a bit too abstract, and won’t have much real life application for the students chosen career categories. Social Studies is U.S. History with a focus on South Carolina, so we are starting with a unit on Native Americans. I’m doing a cross-curricular unit with that and ELA, since the ELA unit is myths with a theme of cultural identity. In math, we started with a unit on 3D shapes to begin our geometry focus.

The students were great all week. They did well getting to their inclusions classes on time and finding their way around the school. Most of them have at least one core class in the general education environment, and they are doing well keeping up this first week and advocating for their accommodations. Altogether, they have done really well, and I hope it continues.

How was your first week? If you haven’t started school yet, what are you doing to prepare?

Back to School!

9781721-back-to-school-supplies-isolatedHello, Everyone! I hope you have all had a great summer. It has been a while since I’ve been in one place long enough to sit down and write a blog post. I’m itinerant with my Extended School Year students in the summer, and then I was lucky enough to go on an awesome road trip around the Midwest during which I had pretty much zero internet access.

But school started back yesterday, and I’m on my second day with students! We have an a blessedly smooth start to the year. All but 3 of my 11 students had already had me for at least 1 year. I kept all of my rules and most of my procedures exactly the same, so there would be no confusion of the old way vs. the new way that caused a problem at the start of my last school year.

The students stepped smoothly into back academic mode and gave only cursory complaints at having to go back to waking up “so so very early.” (I was right there with them, even if I didn’t let on.) I did institute an addition to my classroom behavior plan (more about that later) that may have helped reduce complaints and encourage on task behavior.

I intend to give you a full debriefing about our first week back to school after Friday has wrapped up, but I did want to catch all of you up on that Summer Teacher Bucket List I mentioned in this post. Here is the list again with commentary.

Teacher-y Bucket List

  • 40 hours itinerant Extended School Year I managed to fit in all 40 hours of service before the last week of July, which is the earliest I have ever finished summer schooling. My students and I were equally thrilled, because it gave us a sold 3.5 weeks (2.5 for me since teachers started back a week earlier) of summer before the 15-16 school year started up.
  • Summer Academy PD workshops  This was semi-helpful. The Stetson courses gave tips on differentiating, but many of them were pretty common sense to special education teachers who are used to having multiple ages, grades, and abilities in one room. I did manage to pull out a couple of helpful pointers and I was reminded of some activities I had forgotten about, so that was good. I did attend an excellent training on the SRA curriculum. I have used the curriculum for years, but had never actually been trained on it. This was incredibly beneficial, and really helped explain what was being done wrong to cause some of the problems I had previously encountered. Do any of you use SRA? If so which courses? I would love to hear how you incorporate it into your class.
  • teach parent and student ASL classes I did teach student ASL classes all through the summer. None of my parents attended more than one class though. It’s a good bit more to it than in Cued Speech, so I think they may have been overwhelmed. The kids stuck it out though, and we made great progress!
  • plan daily math centers with independent, hands-on activities I’m to say I never really got around to this. I sat down several times, and I just could not figure out a way that would allow the students to be completely independent in the center from beginning to end when they can’t read. Any tips? I don’t have BoardMaker, or any software like that, and reading/explaining the directions to them defeats the intention between my wanting to set up these center. The goal was for me to let them work, so they could let me work with my resource students without interruption. Reading to them would require I leave my resource kids in the middle of the lesson when my math kids come in.
  • select class novel and write reading guide and lesson plans I selected Our Strange, New Land: Elizabeth’s Diary by Patricia Hermes. It has a Lexile level of only 350 according to one calculator, so I am hoping it will be an appropriate read for even my lowest student if we preteach vocabulary and time the novel to read it after we’ve finished our Colonial American unit in social studies. It will be a good opportunity to do cross curricular activities with history, ELA, geography, math, and art. I’m really looking forward to it.
  • get TESOL certification This did not happen. I did look into a program, but they offer guaranteed job placement that you must use within one year. I’m not quite ready to make that change just yet, so I’m putting this off for at least another year.
  • improve Cued Speech fluency I did practice. My students still complain I’m too slow and make mistakes, but hopefully there’s been some improvement. Perhaps they just forgot how poor my fluency was at the end of last year. Yikes! I think I’m a little better than I was then.
  • develop way to integrate Cued Speech reading instruction Integration did not happen, but I did manage to get a transliterator to agree to offer classes to my seventh graders during their resource period, so that’s something.
  • make conversation sentence stem cards to help with language samples and class discussions I have started this, but it’s not quite finished yet. Stay tuned!

Non-Teacher-y Bucket List

  • Italy trip Check!
  • Colorado wedding road trip Check!
  • visit college friends (Atlanta, Virginia, Nashville) Check on 2 of the 3. I never made it up to Virginia. We have an overdue Skype date set for tomorrow though!
  • sew travel kit accessories Check!
  • sew placemats This one hasn’t happened yet, but I did get the materials, so perhaps sometime soon.
  • knit sheep baby blanket I’m about 4 inches deep into this blanket, but I did double the width since it seemed a little small. It’s coming along nicely.
  • finish mug storage Check! Just need to hang it on a wall now…

I was not quite as good about following though on my Reading Bucket List. I’ve only read 2 of the 5, Building Academic Language and The Lady in Gold, partly because I joined a book club at the start of the summer and ended up reading a ton of really enthralling novels.

  • I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language  by Lydia Denworth
  • Talking Hands by Margalit Fox
  • When the Brain Can’t Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder by Dr. Teri James Bellis, Ph.D.
  • Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms Excellent read! Very informative, and it helped to kick-start my sentence stem prompts I’m still working on. I highly recommend this. Be on the look out for a book review here soon.
  • The Lady in Gold Not as great as I expected but there was a solid middle section that was very historically illuminating, and I do enjoy my history! (as my students tell you with a moan)

That was it. Check back Saturday for a window into our first week of school!