Thursday, October 23, 2014

TBT: My Last Attempt at Happiness as a Classroom Teacher

Morbid, but true. This post, dated back in March, was my last hurrah at attempting something resembling happiness as a behavior teacher in the classroom. As many of you know, I left the classroom to accept a job as a behavior analyst for a mental health agency, currently contracted through the state department. It is a completely different setting, with a completely different population, and a complete different set of challenges, but I love it. My throwback post today is a reminder of where I was last March. A reminder of how unhappy I was. A reminder at how disorganized the administration was, while I was barely keeping my head above water, thrashing about asking for help. That being said, the post is also a reminder of how hopeful I was, how eager I was, how thankful I was to finally feel as though I was getting some support. Well, we know that just a couple of months later, I had had enough, and resigned from teaching. But that's a story for another day...

Original post: March 25, 2014

Greetings friends!

Phew - my life has been KrAAAzzZEEE!

In an attempt to find peace in my constantly chaotic world of teaching, I am looking at ways to improve my classroom presence and management skills. After 6+ months of barely keeping my head above water, an administrator finally brought me in to discuss what is working and not working in my class. I was very frank with her, and told her where my struggles lie, as well as my frustrations with the support. I had been asking for help with these issues since September (when I realized how much different the public school environment is from my previous job placement), and had received none. I had been given "quick answers" or, check out this website, but nothing I could really utilize in my classroom with any sort of guidance or support. I asked to observe other classrooms, to which I was given the response "Let me check with that teacher and get back to you." You can image I never heard back…

Now, just to remind you of my current job: I am a therapeutic special education teacher, working with students with social/emotional and behavioral challenges. My previous job had the exact same population of kids, however the entire school was devoted to their well-being and success. I am the only teacher for first and second grade students with this population, and none of the administrators in my building have experience with these types of kids. Makes for a challenging transition to say the least…

Well, I suppose I should look at this as a "new beginning" for myself as an educator. I am finally feeling the support of an administrator, and am being offered opportunities to observe classrooms, have observations of my own teaching with specific goals of classroom management in mind, and have a sounding board for ideas I have to enhance the classroom environment. I hate that it has taken to nearly the last 3 months of school for others to be on board with my frustration and overwhelmed-ness, but alas. Better late than never I s'pose.

This administrator has offered some insight in using centers, or stations in the classroom. My previous job did not include centers as part of their learning methodology, thus I never got the chance use them, or even see them in action. I've always been interested in utilizing this much-talked about academic and classroom management technique, however never felt confident enough to implement it myself, especially as my first year in public school. Well, this administrator has since encouraged me to attempt this in my classroom, in, yes, March. I purchased many books on implementing stations in the classroom for K-2, as well as The First Six Weeks of School (yes I know…how did I NOT own this already?!?!). I've already spent the last week or so vigorously highlighting and writing notes in the margins!

I still require lots of hand-holding while I figure all of this out (especially with the required "break" from curricula as we dive into learning how to use these stations), but I am slowly getting more and more confident. Hopefully some day I can talk a little about how it works in my classroom (provided I get to the point that it feels like it is working).

This past week, I introduced the Literacy Stations model to my kiddos, as well as reviewed classroom rules and expectations. We made the following Anchor Charts together for classroom rules and the consequences for following, and breaking the rules:



Also, just for fun, here is our Decoding Strategies Anchor Chart:

I've seen lots of beautiful, colorful, and fun anchor charts full of pictures and funky fonts. As much as I love them, I need to keep mine fairly simple, with minimal "extras". My kiddos can get overwhelmed by visual stimuli and instead of using an anchor chart effectively, they tend to get distracted by too many images and colors. Hence, my pretty basic charts, by Pinterest standards :)

If you have any additional classroom resources that you have found helpful in your quest to perfect your classroom management skills, please feel free to share! I'm always look at ways to enhance my own teaching skill :)

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I've linked up with The Teacher's Desk 6 for today's Throwback Thursday. Click the button below to check out the other great TBT posts!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Easy Like Sunday Morning #1

Good Morning Mates!

In an effort to be more reliable in my posts (sorry!), I've decided to merge my love for music (usually Indie, easy, and relaxing tunes) and restful Sundays by providing you with a weekly post. A single, soothing song for your enjoyment. Let me know what you think!


For real - I'm obsessed with this song (well, everything by Rilo Kiley) and have been for a while. I just love it so much, I have to share. It's my civic duty.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

TBT: I've Been BOO-ed!

I was BOO-ed 2 years ago (twice actually) and I'm back to remind you of the fun Halloween stuff I loved and the great blogs I BOO-ed as well :)

This original post was from October 14, 2012
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I am so giddy :)! I have just been BOO-ed! I've seen this neat idea on Pinterest where people "BOO" each other at work, in their neighborhoods etc. But I am so excited to be a part of the blog-version of this fun, original game!

Special thanks to Laura from TIPS: Teach, Inspire, and Prepare Students for the BOO! Please make sure you check out her fun, inspirational blog :)

Time for the fun part!



Once you are Boo-ed, follow these steps:

1. If you've been boo-ed, copy and paste the above pic and these "rules" into your post.

2. Give a shout out to the blogger who booed you and link back to their site!

3. Share 3-5 October activities, books, products (maybe yours or someone else's) or freebies(s) that you love!

4. Share the Boo love with 5 bloggers-make sure you check this link so that you don't repeat the "Boo"

5. Link up {here} so that others can find you and read about your October ideas! While you are there check out the other great blogs!

Here are my October faves:
1. Roll a Jack-O-Lantern from Allison at Oopsey Daisy!

2. Going Batty! Craftivity Freebie from A Cupcake for the Teacher

3. Candy Corn ABC from Carol's Cutting Edge!




Next up: BOO-ing these fabulous blogs! Please, please, please check them out. Their blogs are awesome :)


Thanks for joining in on the fun! Don't forget to link up with Tori at Tori's Teacher Tips too so that you won't get boo-ed again :)

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I've linked up with The Teacher's Desk 6 for this fun Throwback Thursday Linky! Check it out by clicking the image below :)


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lust After Lush: Liquefy Your Solid Conditioner

Hey all,

Have you all heard of Lush? It's a handmade cosmetics chain that make their products with organic and fresh fruits and vegetables, high quality essential oils, and safe synthetics. They use very little to no preservatives and packaging and always telling you exactly what is in each product and where it was made (and who made it!). All of their products are cruelty free and most are vegan. I am a big fan and my all-time favorite product is their Big shampoo. Now, I have lots and lots of thick hair, however it is very fine and oily. So even though this miraculous product is a "volumizing" shampoo, it works wonders on my hair. It makes it feel light, bouncy and smells ah-mazing!

I've used this product for years and have always followed it up with a generic conditioner (as I mentioned, dryness is not my problem). However, on a recent visit to my local Lush location, I noticed they had a Big conditioner! (Apparently it has been around for a while, but I usually just purchase my shampoo on their website, so I hadn't seen it) Their conditioner came as a solid, which I honestly, wasn't sure about. I had tried a solid shampoo in the past and I never felt that I was getting enough product for my hair. I also hated the way it melted in the shower and stuck to the metal tin I bought. You are supposed to keep those things out of the shower in between uses to dry, but who remembers to grab their shampoo from the linen closet each day for a shower?

Anyway, I decided to try this conditioner, as it was a different texture (smoother and more "gelatinous" I guess) and, I mean, it's Big. I placed it on my shower caddy, unwrapped and ready to go. While I enjoyed the texture of the bar, it melted ALL.OVER.THE.PLACE. It dripped down the caddy grates all over my other products. I was wasting my new conditioner chunks at a time! Plus, I found it difficult (though not as much as my prior experience with solid hair products) to use enough product. I love the idea of the limited packaging, but it was too difficult for me to use regularly.

Then, I had an idea.

Liquefy!



If you want to know how, check out the steps below (in pictures):

Boil some water. Not precise I know, but you will be adding the water to the conditioner, so there aren't exact measurements. How much water you need depends how much product you have, so err on the side of boiling more than you think you need.

Chop up your solid conditioner bar (see how floppy it is!)

Throw the pieces in a new pot or bowl (that can withstand boiling temperatures!).

Start pouring your boiling water and mixing. Don't dump it all in, just a little at a time while it starts to liquefy.

Mix and stir until smooth.

Once it's smooth, add to a container. Be careful because it's hot! I used an old Big shampoo pot.

This looks lumpy like tapioca pudding but it's not. The contents separate in the heating process, which results in this look. 

I labeled my new product using Washi tape reinforced with clear packing tape. This step is really only necessary if your pots look identical, but it's always fun to use fun printed tape :)

Tada!

Are you a Lush fan? What is your favorite product?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In Defense of the Clip Chart

Morning all,

So I've been reading lots of posts about behavior clip charts in the classroom, especially questioning their effectiveness. As a former classroom teacher for students with behavioral challenges, this topic is near to my heart. Recently Based on some common arguments against using behavior clip charts, here are a few thoughts on why we SHOULD use behavior clip charts in the classroom and how to use them EFFECTIVELY




  • Many bloggers, teachers, and parents have argued that behavior clip charts do not change behavior, they only track it. I disagree entirely with this logic. The purpose of this method is to hold students accountable for their behavior while directly providing consequences (read: punishment and reinforcement) immediately after a child exhibits a behavior. Yes, it does provide you, the educator, with some informal data about how a students' overall school day went, but does not nearly provide the whole picture. If you are using a clip chart as your only method of data collection, I urge you to reconsider. If you are interested in finding the causes and/or solutions for your students' behaviors, you should be taking much more specific behavior data. This chart is less for you and more for them.
  • Another argument for the dismantling of the classroom clip chart is that it is punitive to students who don't (or cannot) adhere to the classroom expectations. My concern with this logic is that, if you are strictly looking at a procedure as "punitive" then you are not able to see the potential positive effects of these procedures. Yes, when students misbehave and their behavior is corrected, they may become embarrassed. Just like anything else. If a student is unable to consistently follow a specific expectation due to say, a neurological dysfunction, then that needs to be recognized by the educator. Not everyone functions in the same way, therefore not everyone has the same set of expectations. For example, if a student with ADHD has trouble following the direction to sit in her chair "appropriately" and is consistently marked down on the clip chart, maybe its time for you to change your expectations for her. The expectation for your other students may still be the same, but instead of constantly punishing a behavior that is otherwise not detrimental to the learning community, and frankly may be out of the child's control, why not change your expectations for that rule for that individual? You as the educator need to be flexible and differentiate for each student, both academically and behaviorally. You need to ask yourself: "What are the reasons this student is not adhering to these expectations?" It is not the clip chart's fault. It is the fault of the educator for not properly implementing the procedure. 
  • Some opponents argue that by having the chart have the potential for punishment (generally the yellow, orange, and red portions of the chart), the assumption is made that the student can and will misbehave. I wholeheartedly disagree and frankly am confused by this logic. Misbehavior happens. That's why these charts exist. Young students are impressionable and nonverbal cues have been proven as an effective way to remind students of the expectations. No assumptions should ever be made. As an educator, your classroom climate should ensure your students always feel as though they are in charge of their behavior. The idea that by having a behavior plan in place (in this case, a clip chart), that the students are going to misbehave is concerning. That means that the chart is responsible for the students' behavior, not themselves. That's a slippery slope!
  • Some argue that even though we try to make the chart seem positive and that it is just a "reminder", it can still be embarrassing. My response to that: Yes. It can be embarrassing. Just like your "quiet space." Kids are smart. A time out is a time out. If they are required to go to the "quiet space" as directed by an adult, it is viewed as a time out, because it is. It's time away from the activity, regardless of what you label it. Now, don't get me wrong. I used "quiet spaces" in my classroom throughout my teaching career. I love them, and utilize them the same way many of you do. However, I know what the kids view it as, try as I might to call it something different. It's okay to utilize this strategy in your classroom, especially if it works. It's also okay to utilize a behavior clip chart even though kids may actually be held accountable for their behaviors.
  • Many argue that a student may become "anxious" or their undesirable behaviors may increase as a result of seeing their clip go down the chart. If this is the case for one of your students, I have a solution. Provide a personalized clip chart- one in which no one else sees it but you and the student. I have done this with a small version on the student's desk and only their name. If you have a particular student who when they end up on Red (or whichever color you have as the "lowest" point of the chart) their behavior increases or responding stops all together (basically, they shut down), adjust the chart accordingly to provide it for the child. We are teachers. We are experts and differentiation. This, just like academic curricula, needs to be individualized to support all of our students.


These charts do not solve the problem. They do not teach alternative behaviors. That is your job. You can't expect a child who continues to move down the chart because he keeps calling out that he knows what he's doing to earn the new color. YOU need to teach him the replacement behavior. And then, every single time he engages in that replacement behavior MOVE THE CLIP UP! If you are using the behavior chart effectively, you will be punishing inappropriate behavior and reinforcing appropriate behavior. This is a teaching moment!

Absolutely clip charts can feel embarrassing or demoralizing -especially if the students are going home feeling defeated. This is a reflection on the implementation, not the behavior strategy itself. However, when implemented appropriately and effectively, they are an extremely helpful behavior tool to aid in non-intrusive supports for each and every student.

Students are individuals. They should be treated like that. What one student may get a "yellow" for, another one may not. We are doing the students a disservice if we treat them all the same, expect the same behaviors, and especially overlook certain behaviors because we don't want to student to feel sad.


NONE of this is to say that your Behavior Clip Chart will solve every behavior problem in your classroom. Of course you should be doing everything in your power to set up your classroom to be as engaging and reinforcing as possible. Additionally, using strategies from other behavior and social curricula will only make your classroom more responsive, responsible, and happy. Whatever you choose to do, please don't write off a legitimate, effective behavior tool just because some teachers disapprove, or worse, are not implementing it correctly. It is all in how you use it.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. What do you think of clip charts? Do agree or disagree with my post? Speak up! Let's start a conversation 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shop for Less: Best Online Shops for a Teacher's Budget

Hey all,

Even though I'm not a classroom teacher anymore, I still know what it's like to try to buy a functional work wardrobe on a teacher's salary. That being said, I've compiled a list of online stores with budget-friendly options for teachers and other budget-conscious professionals.



In no particular order...
  1. Front Row
  2. River Island
  3. Koshka
  4. Dorothy Perkins
  5. Sheinside
  6. Asos
  7. Joe Fresh
  8. Uniqlo
  9. ModCloth
  10. Go Jane
  11. Zara
  12. Topshop
  13. Style Moi
  14. Lulus
  15. Charlotte Russe
  16. Choies
  17. UrbanOG
  18. Romwe
  19. Boohoo
  20. Ruche
Some of these sites have unlimited awesomeness as low prices, while others you need to search a bit for some great deals (I'm looking at you Asos). Still, if you are looking to spice up your Kohl's wardrobe a bit, check these out!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Faves

Afternoon All,
TGIFBALW
(Thank God It's Friday Before A Long Weekend)

I've fallen in love with many things this month. Today, I want to share these things with you, in the hopes you will love them as much as I do...

one. My newest Appsession (see what I did there...) is Steller. Compose your own story using text, pics and vids, all from your iPhone. Check out other amazing journals too! Here is one of mine to give you an idea.

two. This article from Upworthy is quite funny...if you think satirical sexism is funny.

three. Dolly Poulet. Just Google her. She is everything.

four. Tiny Hamster eats tiny pizza, tiny burritos, and tiny spaghetti

five. This video is instant therapy. Seriously.

six. The Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival. Surprised The Husband with tickets (jeez - count the capital letters so far), and had an absolute blast! We are both big into stand-up comedy, so this was quite the treat.

seven. My newest purchases and recent loves. Turns out they make a pretty good outfit too...

My Recent Loves

eight. Speaking of comedy, check out my newest TV obsession: Nathan For You on Comedy Central. Remember Dumb Starbucks? Yeah, it was him.

nine. And now, speaking of newest TV obsessions, The Husband has gotten me into watching (or re-watching for him) The Shield. I know I'm like...12 years behind (The series started in 2002), but with my weird TV anxiety (absolutely NOTHING scary, or gory, or upsetting) it took a lot of convincing to get me to give it a shot. Now, I'm obsessed. However, I do still need to leave the room sometimes, and one time last week, an episode was too upsetting for me that I had to take a break from the series for a few days...

What are some of your faves? Share! I LOVE checking new things out :)

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