Category Archives: Pre-Service Teachers

How to survive and thrive your first year teaching!

Guest Q and A with a kindergarten teacher.

Erica, is now half way through teaching her second year in kindergarten.

I reached out to her to get some advice about how she survived and thrived during her first year teaching kindergarten. Here is some of her great advice:

Where and what grade do you teach?

I teach kindergarten in The Grants Pass School District.

One of Erica’s students creating chalk art

What was your favorite thing about your first year teaching?

My favorite thing about my first year teaching was building such strong relationships with my coworkers. When you are student teaching you build relationships at your school but the most important relationships are still related to your college. During your first year it’s really important to create strong relationships with the people around you because they will help you with understanding the curriculum, helping specific students, and making sure you get the supports you need to be successful and thrive.

What was the most challenging thing about teaching your first year?

The most challenging thing about teaching my first year was accepting that I can’t help every single student but instead I can only give them the tools to be successful. It was painful to let some of my kiddos who didn’t reach all the grade level standards or who didn’t get the proper supports in kindergarten go to first grade. Accepting that I can’t fix but instead can only support has made my second year emotionally easier.

What surprised you the most about your first year teaching?

What surprised me the most about my first year teaching was how much poverty/ trauma  there is in Southern Oregon. For some of these kids, we are ALL they have. Some of my students have gone through life events that I could not even imagine going through as an adult and all we can do is give them a hug and make sure school is full of love and support.

What is your advice for handling challenges communicating with parents?

I think the best thing you can do is rely on your teaching team and principal when it comes to challenges with parents. If you have a parent who is being unkind, I would advise telling your principal and asking for advice. Always ask for advice when you don’t know how to handle a situation. 

How have you navigated work/life balance?

This is one of the biggest challenges that every teacher faces. You always have a long list of things to finish and it never seems to end. Remember you are allowed to say no! I made a promise to myself that unless there are special circumstances I will not stay past 4 PM and I do not go to work on the weekends. I work through my lunches and prep during every prep period so I can leave on time. Its worth it for me! I am a planner so Sunday nights I pre-plan dinners with friends during the week to make sure I still socialize. It’s easy to make school your life but balance is so important. I always plan a special event for the weekends as well so I have something fun to look forward to(this can be as simple as a Saturday morning hike)!

What are some ways you have taken care of yourself this first year?

Self care is so important! Some things I do include going to the gym after work, taking my dog to the dog park, meal prepping on Sunday’s so I have healthy food for the week, leaving work by 4pm, going to bed at a decent hour so I have energy for the next work day, and talking about how I feel with friends, family, and/ or coworkers. Remember that you can’t be your best self for your students if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

As a student teacher, what are the best ways you can prepare while in your teacher preparation program?

While in your teacher prep. program take advantage of the opportunity to learn about different teaching styles and classroom management systems. You will develop your own teaching style/ management system but it’s wonderful when you have ideas to build off of.

What advice do you have for job seeking when the time comes?

My advice for job seeking is to apply to as many districts as you can via the online portals. There are so many amazing job opportunities in the Rogue Valley, and outside of the Valley, and you will find the best fit for you. Don’t give up! Job interviews are very stressful but when you find the right school you will know!
When it comes to interviews you need to be yourself. You will be asked questions about concepts that you learned in your prep program but that’s only about 30% of the interview. The other 70% is if you would fit into their school culture. Be honest about who you are and what you believe!  

THANK YOU Erica for taking the time to share your insights and wisdom with us!

We are so proud of you and know you are making a huge difference every day when you show up for your students!

What is “masking” and autism?

“Masking” and Autism- Sometimes this is called “camouflaging” 

On social media (twitter) I have seen multiple people who experience Autism describe the concept of “masking” and autism. At an autism conference I recently went to, a young man with autism described how he was able to “mask” his Autism and at the age of 22 has recently received a diagnosis. 

What is “masking”?

•Masking is when a person who has Autism tries to blend in or go unnoticed among their neurotypical peers. 

•They will fly under the radar, try to go unnoticed and copy or mirror as best as possible the social scripts of their peers.

•They work hard to be the “good student” and not bring extra attention to themselves. 

•Research shows that those who have Autism level one (aka. Asperger’s) often camouflage.

•Masking happens when a person with autism is more aware of their social differences to the neurotypical world. 

•Girls with autism tend to “mask” more than boys on the spectrum.

Why is masking an issue?

•Masking suppresses the natural state of the person with Autism. 

•Students who mask are often misdiagnosed because they have camouflaged their symptoms. A misdiagnosis of mental health difficulties may happen. 

•A feeling of social isolation may happen because they are not able to be their true selves. 

•Masking can lead to loneliness, depression, self-harm, self-medication, anxiety anger and is most notably it is exhausting.

If you suspect a student is masking, talk to your educational team, a special education teacher, school counselor or other professional. Getting others involved will help support you as an educator to determine the next steps to take in helping the student.

Dr. Temple Grandin-My biggest takeaways from her keynote speech

I got to meet Temple!!! 

Temple Grandin at the US Autism Association keynote address 

Getting the chance to watch Dr. Temple Grandin talk has been a career long dream of mine!

I ran into Dr. Grandin at the airport!!!

When I started working with children with autism back in 1997, her book “Thinking in Pictures” was one of my first introductions to autism.  

Dr. Grandin was one of the first individuals with autism who could articulate what life is like for people on the autism spectrum. Parents and professionals both clamored for her knowledge, expertise and valuable insight. 

Here is a link to the first book I read…

https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Pictures-Expanded-Life-Autism/dp/0307275655

Temple Grandin’s book 

I just had the amazing opportunity to hear her speak at the US Autism Association! 

Here are the major takeaways I had from her keynote speech: 

  • Limit screen time for children with autism to less than 1 hour per day. She noted that many of the children who could succeed in computer science are sucked in to video games and no longer can access their full potential due to their addiction
  • Parents need to “start letting go”-foster independence from a young age. She likened this to the adult cow who still wants to nurse from the mama cow. She said we need to “wean our children” so they are not dependent on us
  • “don’t over-protect”the child with autism
  • Allow children a multitude of hands on experiences because true learning takes place with hands on experiences not through screens
  • Teach young children how to “wait” and how to “take turns” and use board games as a way to teach these skills
  • Having real jobs are important for young adults with autism starting at age 13 (or so). 
  • Don’t get hung up on the label of autism
  • Focus on the strengths of the child not the deficits-build upon a child’s special interest which could end up leading to a valuable career one day. As an example, a child who is interested in pipes can become a plumber. 
  • Don’t make kids with autism do “baby math” if they excel in math. Allow the child to excel in the area they are gifted in
  • Encourage friendships through shared experiences such as cub scouts, school clubs etc. A shared interest will help build the friendship 
  • There is NO need to disclose autism diagnosis for milder cases due to some prejudice surrounding autism. Instead, tell what you need “those lights give me a headache”
  • Stretch students to grow and don’t overprotect them!
  • Allow for choices

If you were at the conference or have learned from Dr. Grandin yourself, please share what your biggest takeaways are in the comments! 

Here is a link to a youtube video of her (not from the conference I went to). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWePrOuSeSY

What To Wear As A Teacher

Professional Attire for Pre-Service Teachers

Talking about professional dress and attire can be a tricky issue. A principal I had one school year, spoke at a staff meeting and asked all of the teachers not to wear short mini skirts to work but only because one teacher routinely wore them. I think having a one-on-one conversation with the teacher who wore the mini skirts was too much for him so he addressed the whole teaching team. He was turning red in the face as he was talking about this issue in the staff meeting. We want our time together as teachers to be about collaboration and learning and not about what we are wearing.

The bottom line was a parent called him and said “I don’t think the skirt my son’s teacher is wearing is appropriate because it is too short.” As an instructor who guides new practicum and pre-service teachers, I want to advise you NOW so you don’t run into someone telling you that your attire is not appropriate.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am taking away their sense of personality, gender identity or sense of style.  I simply suggest taking what you currently have going on and elevating that look to be professional, well-groomed and put together for the classroom.

One year job interview: We often tell our student teachers that this school year is essentially a one year job interview. We want you to not only represent the university in a positive light but most importantly yourself. You are your own personal “brand” and the way you present yourself will reflect upon your “brand.” Even if a veteran teacher wears casual clothing, they have a contract and you at this point may not. It is important to dress professionally even if those around you are not.

Outfit Ideas: Here are a few ideas for outfits that are professional for teachers to wear.

  •  button down shirts with collars
  • slacks
  • khakis
  • black trousers
  • (modest) length skirt or a dress
  • long skirt
  • tie

What about Jeans? Check with your specific school to see if it is ok to wear jeans. I know this might sound odd to most people who live in jeans, but some principals do not want teachers to wear jeans.

Check the handbook: Most of the employee handbooks for schools will detail what appropriate dress will look like and if anything is off-limits.

Well groomed: One workshop I went to in Texas urged teachers to look in the mirror before leaving the house. This may sound obvious but this last check will make sure the buttons are straight on your shirt, that food stains aren’t on your shirt and that your general look is professional. I would recommend not using scents such as perfume and cologne because some students are very sensitive to scents.

Dress for the grade: If you are volunteering in a preschool don’t show up in high heels or a tight skirt. You will need to sit on the floor, move freely on the playground and keep up with busy kids. As a guide, look at your supervising teacher and see what he or she is wearing.

Go online for inspiration: Pinterest is one platform I know of that has great outfit ideas for teachers. No need to break the bank to create a new wardrobe as thrift stores such as the goodwill will often have everything you need to pull together a few good looks. Take a friend along to help you sort through the racks.

Here is one of my wonderful student teachers Becca in a nice casual yet professional teacher outfit. Her school is ok if teachers wear jeans and she has a great polished look.

Brainstorm some outfits in your wardrobe that are professional enough for you to wear to the classroom you are volunteering in.

Meet your practicum student

As a practicum student, you have the opportunity to be in schools and volunteer in a classroom full of children. When parents drop off and pick up their child, they may see you in and around the school.

Parents will want to know who is in their child's classroom working with their children.

Parents will want to know who is in their child’s classroom working with their children

I recommend creating an all about me page to share with your supervising teachers. They may choose to share this page with parents by posting it on the parent communication bulletin board or find another way to share it.

I have created a “Meet your practicum student” one page outline for you to use to print and use in your classroom. (see below)

What to Include: Here are some examples of what you can put on the all about me page… Continue reading

Why do you want to become a teacher?

For many Pre-Service Teachers (either in practicum or student teaching), it is good to look at why one wants to become a teacher…

In another post, we looked at goodness of fit with teaching. Do you possess the qualities inherent to become a good teacher? Read the post here: Goodness of Fit-Teaching.

Let’s take some time to reflect upon why you want to be a teacher…

Think about your educational background: What was your school experience like? was it positive? Did you have a teachers who inspired and encouraged you to be your best in all ways? Or, did you have a negative experience? What made the experience challenging?

Why do you want to become a teacher? I always knew I was a born teacher. It was always my instinct to help my twin brother from a young age and found myself naturally taking on the “teacher” role even as a young child. Do you want to follow in the footsteps of a good teacher you had or want to provide others with a better experience than you had?

Lastly, If you are a practicum or student teacher…

What are you hopeful to get out of this experience? If you are volunteering in a kindergarten, are you hopeful to learn about what motivates this age group to learn? Are you excited to learn about the curriculum or positive behavior support?

Check out this worksheet I created to reflect upon “why I want to be a teacher”

You can download the worksheet here: Why I want to be a teacher

I look forward to hearing your reflections!

Why I want to be a teacher-2

 

Weekly Self Reflection For Student Teachers

→Self-Reflection:

Why is self-reflection so important in teaching?

when we teach we learn about what works and what doesn’t work by using self-reflection. Teach a lesson, a day, a week and look back and take the time to examine what worked well, and what didn’t work.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • How did the students respond? Was the lesson too hard, too easy? How would you present the materials or lesson differently next time?
  • How are you feeling physically and emotionally? Are issues in your personal life creeping into the classroom? Are you able to leave stress from home at home?

Every facet of teaching and education including the teacher’s cognitive, psychological, social/emotional and professional characteristics can be reflected upon. How you show up in your classroom and your school matters! Every facet of you as a person and teacher impacts your students and the whole school is impacted on some level.

How you show up in your classroom and your school matters!

When we prepare to review dispositions of our pre-service teachers with self-reflection in mind, we have the following rubric and scale:

Take a look at this scale and see how you would rate yourself right now…

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 5.17.03 PM

We always want to see ourselves with a growth mindset and as a person who can grow and develop new skills.

Are you a person who is willing to put in the work to self-reflect so you can grow personally or professionally? If so how are you self-reflecting?

One student teacher I had two years ago said he had a long drive home from his student teaching placement. He took this long commute to run through his school day. He would think about the areas of the day that went well and the areas of the day that he would do differently next time. One suggestion I had for him is to have some type of journal or log to eventually (after he is done driving:) record those thoughts. Even though you think you would never forget them, the year is so full and there is no way to remember everything.

I designed this self-reflection worksheet as a way to encapsulate that self-reflection every week.

Think about:

  • Things that went well
  • Things you would do differently
  • Students you connected with (who and how?)
  • Questions or concerns

You can download the weekly reflection worksheet here: Weekly Reflection student teaching-2

Take a moment to fill this out each week. Create a file to keep the reflections and by the end of the year you will be so amazed at how much you have grown.

Weekly Reflection student teaching-2

  • Last night in our weekly guide meeting my wonderful pre-service teachers got into partners and used this self-reflection worksheet to reflect upon their week in the classroom. They enjoyed the chance to share with a partner and we will try this again next week.

The student on the left side of the picture, Hailey also shared her journal which she uses daily to write in. Her collaborating teacher encouraged her to use a daily journal to write notes about the day and questions that come up. I was so impressed to see this level of self-reflection from a student teacher!

IMG_2174

Two of my student teachers using the self-reflection worksheet to reflect on their week

©SPEDadvisor.com

 

Set Up An Independent Work System At Home For Your Child With Autism

Benefits of independent work systems:  

Independent work systems are evidence-based practice for students with autism, but they are very helpful for any child who needs some structure to be able to work on his or her own.

Most children benefit from structure in their environment

My son who started Kindergarten, now has homework so I set up a structured work system so he has somewhere in the house dedicated to completing his homework.

  • Special education classrooms use a variation of these work systems and supports to help teach independence and provide structure.

♥ I want to share this technique and show how easy this independent work system is to create and use at home. Even if you don’t work with an autism specialist or have in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist, this is something you can create with a quick trip to the dollar store and moving around some furniture. Continue reading