Confessions of a First Year Resource Room Teacher! (A.K.A. "HELP")

Morning!

What a dreary day in Boston...I had marvelous plans to head to school with my car packed to the brim with my classroom set up, but since is pouring out, I've opted out. I don't want my hundreds (!) of books getting ruined! Nor, do I want to trudge back and forth to my car in the rain.

Instead, I've decided to do some blogging updates, Freebies, and Linkys :) Keep reading through my maniac celebrations, rants, and panics to get to the goods :)

I went into my classroom yesterday for the first time (because I'm finally allowed to). Some of you may have seen the pictures on Instagram, but here is what my beautiful new classroom looks like:

 My classroom number :)

 SO much bigger than my other classroom already!

 SO much more cupboard space!

 HUGE whiteboard plus an additional wall one and an easel!

 WINDOWS! I was in the basement before - I finally will be able to see sunlight!!

This is my Insatagram collage some of you may have seen. I'm just so happy to be in my little big ol' classroom!

Isn't she a beauty? My previous school had itty-bitty classrooms, because we had very small class sizes with a high staff:student ratio (think: 7 students with 3 adults in the room). Keep in mind I worked at a therapy school for behavioral kiddos, so we needed to rooms to be manageable with few kids and 3+ adults. But, the room was lacking...even with a smaller class size, we barely had space to move! My dining room is absolutely larger than my previous classroom (and we live in a small 2 family house in Boston. Read: NOT big!)

So, here's the best part that will make many of you jealous (sorry...). Since I am a resource room teacher, my caseload is only 6 students right now...so not only do I have still have a small class size, I have a big classroom! I'm so excited for all the possibilities for classroom decor and organization! Additionally, I'm really looking forward to having more freedom to try new behavioral and academic approaches, as I did not have that leeway in my previous school. Also, now I'm in public school! Which is huge (for me!). I've been in such a specialized setting for so long, and though I loved working there with those kiddos, I'm looking forward to new experiences and helping other types of students.

It's not all fun and excitement just yet. When I arrived yesterday, I realized...

Oh my gosh I don't know what I am doing

I've been a head classroom teacher in a sub-separate special needs school. I've never had to be the "specialist", nor have I had to work with a "pull-out" system or "inclusion". Of course I know the methods, research, and ideologies behind this, but I've never worked with it in action. I've learned all about it in my education licensing program and in my student teaching experience - but that's different! I'm in charge here! I need to know what I'm doing -be the expert! I have a para in my room who has been in her position at my school for many years, and has a teaching background. I'm so thankful that I have this person on my team! However, I don't wanna look foolish and be less skilled than her (please read: I don't mean to make that sound snotty- but, as the lead teacher, I need to show a leadership role. I will absolutely use her as a school mentor, but I also really would like to be a type of teaching mentor to her as well. That being said, I know that she has more experience in her position than I will, but I want to show her that I can be a fast learner and a valuable team member!)

I need help! Obviously I was hired for a reason - my principal, the special education administrator, and the school adjustment counselor knew my experience when they hired me. They knew my strengths and what I would bring to their school community. I'm glad they have faith...I just hope I do...

So, I'm asking my bloggy friends to help me out (if you would be so kind and have thoughts to add)! I am looking for experiences, advice, or literature recommendations to help a new inclusion specialist and resource room teacher. I am working with first and 2nd graders this year (also knew for me), with a range of abilities in an inclusion setting. Some of my kiddos will be in and out of my classroom throughout the day - coming in for certain blocks of time to work on certain skills outside of the classroom. Other kids will be with me for the majority of the day, and go into the general education classroom for specific subjects, specials, and academic blocks. All of my students are on IEPs, most of them with a behavioral background (which is my expertise).

Specifically, I'm worried about the classroom management piece. What is my role as a TLP teacher (Therapeutic Learning Program teacher)? Am I a consultant to the general education team? What does my day actually look like? I know these are not questions for you all - more for my principal and para, but I have a confession: I'm embarrassed! Aren't I supposed to know this?! Aye!!

But, I also will confess: I love a challenge! I love change! I love new things! I love experiences! And most of all I love teaching! I applied for this position because I wanted to work with inclusion kiddos in a public school. I want to be able to help students reach their full potential, succeed with a smile on their face, and continue on with fond memories of Mrs. Wallace :) I'm so excited (and thankful!) for this opportunity and I will make the most of it. I'm just a little scared!! (First Day Jitters, anyone?)

Okay, on to things that I can control: Linkys!! I have linked up with The Polished Teacher for a student teacher-themed linky party :)

Here's how to join:
1. Head over to The Polished Teacher blog to get the images
2. Create your image using the blank link up graphic and include the details outlined below.
3. Include:

  • Your fave memory from student teaching in the box labeled "It was the best of times..."
  • Your worst memory from student teaching in the box labeled "It was the worst of times..."
  • Share some teaching advice int he pink box so that others can make the most out of the experience and have a successful student teaching semester!
4. Add your link to the Linky Party!
5. Rule of Three!


So, I've actually completed two images: One for when I was a student teacher, and one for when I was the mentor teacher for a student teacher. It was a very interesting experience from the mentor teacher point of view!

Advice from a former Student Teacher to a new Student Teacher:


It was the best of times...


Being in a classroom community that was so focused on student success in general was such a rewarding experience. But my FAVE moment was working with a student who often exhibited some maladaptive classroom behaviors. He was struggling on staying focused and engaged on a practice test  and ended up completely shutting down. This was my first experience working directly with negative classroom behavior, and I was so nervous. I tried lots of different strategies (mostly focused on punishment procedures) I had learned in school, as well as strategies that had been modeled for me, but nothing seemed to be working. I decided instead to go with my gut and try some positive reinforcement instead. When his facial expression changed and he began working with me again, I felt so proud of him for getting through it! I had so many wonderful experiences in my student teaching classrooms, but this one definitely stuck with me!

It was the worst of times...

After spending an entire semester in my 2nd placement (we had two student teaching placements in my program), I contacted my mentor teacher for a letter of recommendation for my job search. I had a wonderful time in her classroom and felt the experience went well for both of us. Further, one of the many roles of the mentor teacher of a student teacher is to be a...well...mentor. Part of this expectation is to aid in getting a job of their own, including writing a letter of rec. My mentor teacher told me that she was too busy to write me one, with report cards coming up, and lots on her plate at home. I was a little hurt...maybe this was an excuse because she doesn't think I'd make a good teacher and doesn't want to recommend me for any position! I also thought, well, this is a valid excuse - I can image how stressful report card season is. However, when I spoke to a fellow student teacher from my program who had this same mentor teacher the semester before, she told me that she told her the same excuse! (and it wasn't report card season when she asked...). It was very frustrating, and I thought some more about it. Honestly, if you don't have time to write a letter of recommendation for a student teacher you worked well with and thought fondly of, then maybe you just don't have time to be a mentor teacher. Part of this role is providing advice, resources, and recommendations, and if you can't fulfill all the requirements of that role, than you should resign - just as you would if you couldn't fulfill the requirements of a job! Luckily, my previous mentor teacher was more than happy to write me a letter of rec! 

Advice - 

Take it from me – once you are gone and on your own, you will wish you had taken pictures of that classroom management technique or paid more attention to how your mentor teacher grouped her kids. 


Advice from a Mentor Teacher to a Student Teacher:


It was the best of times...

I was so, so, so lucky to have the student teacher I did my first time. She was so incredible! She was knowledgable about the kids and behavior, she was enthusiastic, and eager to learn! She stepped in at the appropriate times, and was a support when needed. She wasn't afraid to ask questions if she didn't know, and I could always count on her to make good decisions. She was easy to give feedback to and asked for advice. She was so tremendous, that I recommended her for an assistant teaching job at our school! She later became MY assistant teacher!

It was the worst of times...

Yes. This really happened. This student teacher was, honestly, a nightmare. She had little experience with the population of kids, which wouldn't have been an issue at all! Student teaching is a learning opportunitiy! How else are you going to get experience with different populations if you don't work with them? But, the difference was, she did not appear to be willing to learn. I would provide her with some tips and advice for working with kids, my  kids, and she would still end up doing her own thing. This often resulted in behaviors, as she would more often than not implement punishment procedures (whether she realized it or not). A few times I caught her rolling her eyes about certain students (students I later found out she did not "like") and when I spoke with her, she would complain about how they "didn't know how to do anything" or "they are old enough to know how to do that". This was enraging! I spoke with her several times about her behavior and attitude toward the students and toward me (she was very rude to me several times). It was the first time I had ever given a poor review to a student teacher, but I honestly could not lie just to avoid the discomfort.

Advice:

ASK QUESTIONS! Even if you think they are stupid (I guess I should follow my own advice...read above to job your memory). I love when student teachers ask questions, because it shows they are interested in learning and enhancing their experience! Good teachers are constantly learning!

In other news...don't forget to check out my Facebook page! I have a Fan Freebie page there (that I finally think I figured out), with more freebies to come!

Oh and, check out this great giveaway hosted by Lucky to Be in First, and A Burst of First! Click the image below to enter!

Last but not least, I've linked up with Freebie Friday from Teaching Blog Addict!

Freebie Fridays
I created a Teachers Pay Teachers Resource Binder Supplement - I have a Blog Binder I put together and I decided to create a TpT Resource section to add to it.

Hope this is helpful for you!

Cheers,
Photobucket

9 comments

  1. Hi Rae, I'm a Massachusetts Sped blogger too! My classroom is very similar to yours, with some students staying with me for the whole day (mind specials) while others participate in partial inclusion. I have found a detailed schedule is super helpful for myself and my paras. I know what you mean about wanting to demonstrate leadership, It is really important that you learn everything you can before day 1. Ask that administrator! During a team meeting, I try not to focus on who specializes in what. I love equal team membership. Even the para! Try to remember that at the end of the day we all take part in teaching academics, behaviors, social skills, fine and gross motor etc. Everyone needs to be on the same page and provide input about how we approach each little detail with a kiddo. Hope this helps, good luck in the new job!

    Danielle
    Growing Special Seeds

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    1. Thank you so much! It is so helpful to hear advice from other special educators! It sounds like you and I have a lot of professional things in common! Hope to keep connecting :)

      Rae

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  2. Hey Rae! Your new classroom looks great! Congrats on the position :) It's always tricky. I think anytime you start a new job, there are questions that you need answered that others think are just implied. That makes things feel tricky! I would recommend setting up some plan time on a schedule for you and the teams you work with, weekly or bi-weekly, to make sure you are all on the same page for what is going on in the inclusion side, and it helps you to know about any special events that might be coming for your kiddos in the coming days that they may need adapted schedules from resource for. Also, I like to give my classroom teachers "snapshots" of the IEPs to include things like, their goals, modifications and accomodations in the classroom, so again, everyone knows what to expect. If you and any of your inclusion teachers are going to use co-teaching as a strategy together this website has some good info: http://www.wku.edu/ste/co-teaching/ . It was set up as part of their student teaching program, but fits with us too! For classroom management specifically, I preferred working with a team with the paras/classroom teachers to find a system that worked best for the student and was able to work effectively in the classroom setting. It can be tricky!
    Sorry for the novel! I hope some of this helps. You're going to do great!

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    Replies
    1. Wow - thank you so much! I have already book marked that website-- so helpful. I just created an IEP at a Glance that I plan to provide my gen ed teachers, as well as use as a reference for myself and my para. Glad to know that others do the same! Chat soon :)

      Rae

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  3. Hi Rae! That classroom looks awesome! Love the green wall and patterned tile--beats my white walls and yucky brownish-orange carpet! I wish I had some advice for you, but as a gen ed classroom teacher, all I can really say is that the more communication you have with the gen ed teachers, the better! I always appreciate SO MUCH when the specialists keep me in the loop about my IEP or ELL kiddos. You will do great this year! So much good luck!

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    1. It so helpful to hear from a gen ed teacher (even though you think you have nothing to offer the discussion :P). I will make sure to continue communicating with the entire team and provide them with all important and helpful resources. Thanks so much for the honest and helpful feedback (and the well wishes!)

      Rae

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  4. Hi Rae! I teach special education in NH (inclusion and pull-out). I think one of the most helpful things is to try to set up co-planning meeting weekly or bi-weekly with the teachers you will be working with so you can discuss your students progress on a regular basis. These meetings also work best if you can include specialists like OT, PT or Speech Therapists. I know that's not always feasible so e-mails are obviously another great way to communicate. I always make visuals for my students to use in class and the regular education teachers really appreciate that. I think the most important thing for them is that you are a resource for them to turn to when trying to modify curriculum to teach identified students or when dealing with behavior concerns. If you need any co-planning recording sheets I have some that I could email you. Let me know if I can help in any way. You're going to love this new position! :o)

    œKaryn
    A is for Apple B is for Blog
    Kideducator@comcast.net

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  5. Wow, 6 students and a para? You are lucky! I always hover around 16 and by the end of the year I'm usually up to about 24-by myself! I love teaching resource though. I agree with the others planning and communicating with the gen ed teachers is important. I always talk with them before the first day of school. let them know who their kids are, what their goals and anything they need to know. I work with them alot with modifying their work, and then give them work on their level (with me).

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  6. 6 students and a para... woah! I have somewhere between 21-25 depending on the week, yup, week. I work in a high transition area where families move in and out a lot, though it seems the students moving in come with IEPs and the ones going out dont have them... but I like students and job security. :) I work in a resource room where we pull our students to our classroom for their services. Each service for each kid is 30-150 minutes per week. I am actually 1 of 2 resource teachers in my school with a combined caseload of 40-50 kids. I was hired in October because of the numbers. Our district sets an ideal max caseload of 25 students for a resource room teacher so we are very lucky the district has both of us full time. We had a fantastic para until a week or so ago when the district reassigned her.

    I love my job and my students though it is my first year teaching so I am with you on this overwhelming thing! Luckily my para had been in resource last year and my coteacher has a little experience totalling to about 1.5 years in different long term positions. So I am with you. Hopefully you have discovered a helpful team in your admin and other teachers and para. I loved having someone who could tell me about last year with my kiddos or that teacher to give ideas on the specific kids and how it ran the previous year so I could get ideas on what worked and what didnt and evn just what the school culture is.

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Thanks for the comments! I look forward to reading them :)

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