Tag Archives: teaching

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!

Professional Dispositions For Pre-Service Teachers

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education defines professional dispositions as:

“The values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors toward students, families, colleagues, and communities and affect student learning, motivation, and development as well as the educator’s own professional growth…”

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

I created this chart for my students to reflect on their strengths and goals in each area of professional dispositions:

The disposition categories include: Professional and ethical conduct, Individual and cultural sensitivity, work habits, effective communication, self-reflection, and collaboration.  The chart can be downloaded here: Professional Dispositions strengths and goals

Continue reading

Person First Language Vs. Condition First Language

 

Words are important! They hold meaning! Words have the ability to lift people up to promote and celebrate them and also have the potential to alienate and marginalize people. We must choose our words carefully so we don’t unintentionally get into a deficit mindsets with our students.

Condition First Language: This is when you put the condition first when speaking about people who have disabilities. An example of this is: A blind child

Person First Language: Put the child/person first before the condition. An example of this is: A child who is visually impaired (blind). Think of children with disabilities as children first.

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Children with disabilities have a wide variety of skills. Some children with disabilities may be gifted in some areas. It is not helpful to think of any group of disabilities as a homogenous group.

Focus on what students can do to create a strength based approach. Before an IEP meeting, create a list of the child’s strengths to start the meeting with. What is an IEP?

Exceptions: The Deaf population typically refers to themselves as Deaf because they have a stand alone language (American Sign Language). They use the capital D in the word Deaf as well. Recently people with autism have been sharing their desire to be called autistic because they acknowledge that although they are not neuro-typical. They are proud of who they are and want to acknowledge their autism.

Check with the individual: It is always best practice to check with the individual to see what langauge they prefer. When you are in a school, defer to using person first langauge unless told otherwise.

 

 

Changes In The DSM-V For Autism

What is the DSM-V? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition) which was just revised in 2013 and written by the American Psychiatric Association. The diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been modified based on the research literature and clinical experience in the 19 years since the DSM-IV was published in 1994. It is important for teachers to know this because the DSM-5 is used in part, to determine ASD diagnosis and eligibility.

Here is a quote from the DSM-5 to further describe what the DSM-5 is:

“The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders….

DSM is intended to serve as a practical, functional, and flexible guide for organizing information that can aid in the accurate diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. It is a tool for clinicians, an essential educational resource for students and practitioners, and a reference for researchers in the field.”

A full pdf link can be found here DSM-5.

Here are the major changes from DSM 4 to DSM 5 in the area of autism:

  • The APA has gotten rid of the sub-categories Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Rett’s Syndrome and Childhood disintegrative disorder and replaced it with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  • Another huge difference is that Asperger’s Syndrome has been removed from the DSM-5. It has been replaced with the term ASD level 1 without language or intellectual impairment. Most professionals are still referring to Asperger’s Syndrome in describing the disability because the term is widely used and understood in the general public.
  • The new diagnostic criteria for ASD have been rearranged into two areas: 1) social communication/interaction, and 2) restricted and repetitive behaviors. The diagnosis will be based on symptoms, currently or by history, in these two areas.

  • DSM-5 has also added a category under restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest or activities called hyper or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment.

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Symptoms must be present in early childhood but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed capacities. Symptoms need to be functionally impairing and not better described by another DSM-5 diagnosis.

Symptom severity for each of the two areas of diagnostic criteria is now defined. It is based on the level of support required for those symptoms and reflects the impact of co-occurring specifier such as intellectual disabilities, language impairment, medical diagnoses and other behavioral health diagnoses.

The DSM-5 includes a new diagnostic category of Social Communication Disorder that describes children with social difficulty and pragmatic language differences that impact comprehension, production and awareness in conversation that is not caused by delayed cognition or other language delays. This diagnosis looks a lot like Asperger’s Syndrome to most professionals.

Hopefully this brief overview of the changes was helpful for teachers and parents who are on the diagnois journey.

Who Loves you? –Emotional Support For Bullying and ACES

Building resilience for children who are experiencing bullying or have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES): When students are being bullied, they are more likely to experience:

  • Depression and anxiety. Signs of these include increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
  • Health complaints
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school. Check out the link for more information at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/bullyingtipsheet.pdf

Creating Resilience– Focusing on gratitude Cultivate Gratitude For Students With ACES for what you have in your life has been proven to support students with ACES. Educators and parents can help young children focus on the support they already have in their lives. Here are two ideas to promote resilience in the home and in the classroom:

At home support: Heart Garland of Love and Support:

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Hang a heart garland showing the names of people who care about the child where they can see it every day. We created it together and I allowed him to brainstorm the people in his life who care about him. He came up with 4 close family members and one teacher from his school. Every day when we wakes up and before he goes to bed, the garland acts as a visual reminder to focus on the people who have his back and care about him.

Alternative Ideas: For children who can’t read yet, you can put small pictures of the people. Gratitude: Each heart can contain one word signifying what the child is grateful for or positive core qualities the person possesses.

In School Support: Lace Up Your Best Personal Qualities Art Activity

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One of my students at SOU created this fun classroom art activity for students to identify 5 things they notice about their peers that are great or positive. Each student in class has a shoe and the “laces” have a word or something positive about each student in class. Some examples of positive words include “reliable, kind, outgoing and good friend”

What are some ways you provide emotional support for students who are bullied or have ACES?

5 Ways To Support Students With Autism During Transitions

Transitions are when a student moves from one activity to another in the classroom. Going from small group work time to large group work, lining up for lunch, going home and going to P.E. are all examples of transitions. 

Transitions are commonly a time when children who experience autism struggle. Wait time, uncertainty, and needing to go from preferred to non-preferred activities all contribute to this breakdown. Staying one step ahead of the curve and supporting the student with autism will help the school day go smoothly. Here are some tips for creating success with transitions during the school day.

Give ample warning for transitions: Use a visual timer and gently alert the child verbally about the upcoming transition. Why I love My Time Timer for Visual Support

Time Timer

Time Timer for visual support

Minimize wait time during transitions Hurry up and wait should not be the motto for your transitions. Waiting in line for example can exacerbate anxiety, frustration and uncertainty for students with autism. Continue reading

Teacher Self-Reflection- End Of The School Year

The end of the school year is a great time for teachers to spend some time deeply reflecting on the school year. Carve out some time to fill out this fun self-reflection tool I created.

You can download and print it out here: Self-Reflection For The End Of the School Year

Share your thoughts: If you have a team of other teachers you work with, take some time to share some of your reflections and ideas. This self-reflection tool would be great for a grade-level team to fill out and determine what items are similar and different on each teacher’s page.

Student Teachers: As part of what is recommended in 5 Things To-Do Before Student Teaching Is Done  take some time to reflect on what went well and what you would change. Using this self-reflection tool will help guide your thoughts and have something tangible to look back on before the school year starts back in the fall. Although it might be tempting to cut and run, take the time to self-reflect while you are still in your final days of your placement.

Changes To Make: What are some changes you would like to make?:

  • Do you want to change your classroom layout, organization or design? Make note of those changes now.
  • Do you want to look for a new newsletter or parent communication log?
  • Do you want to change your classroom job chart? The Importance Of Classroom Jobs-Community Building
  • Do data sheets and student progress monitoring need to be changed? How well did they work? Now is the time to think about all of the many things in your class that you would like to change.

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Best Lessons And Activities: What were the best lessons and activities this school year? Continue reading

The Importance Of Classroom Jobs-Community Building

I wanted to share some examples of classroom job charts I have seen out in the field. If you have a great job chart, take a picture and post in the comments. Having examples will help you for when you set up your classroom in the fall. Take pictures of everything now so you will the examples later 5 Things To-Do Before Student Teaching Is Done

Room 51 staff

This is a 6th grade classroom job board which include the following jobs: Lunch Manager, Custodial, Desk Doctor, Pet Patrol, Materials Manager, Teacher Assistant and Secretary.

What are the benefits of having classroom jobs?

  • Provides structure for students who benefit from knowing what their role is in class
  • Creates a sense of community where all learners are committed to the good of the classroom
  • Encourages students to give back and become helpers

    Job Chart 2nd grade

    This job chart is from a second grade classroom. Jobs include paper passer, line leader, door holder, flag salute, lunch tub monitor, chair monitor, librarian

 

How many jobs should a classroom have?

Continue reading