Pumpkin Week in Pictures!

Say What?! A Monday evening post!

Yep - I am prepped and planned for the entire week, so I have some time to breathe! It feels nice, I must say.

I planned on writing a post this weekend on my hellacious week last week - with another FULL week of being alone with behavioral 1st and 2nd graders, but alas, the week is done, and I'm ready to move in. It was NOT a treat by anyways, but I survived. I think I'm stronger because of it.

However, I would love to show you some of the great moments of last week (or 2) in pictures:

Before our official "Pumpkin Week", we continued with our Autumn theme, by reading There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves.

We also focused on Acrostic Poems this week for our Poem of the Week (An Acrostic Spider Poem), so I decided, as a last minute, time-filler, we would make scarecrows from the story, and create an acrostic poem about leaves.

V is for Vroom- A Leaf Blower

Adorable right?
We also did a fun Spider Craft to pair with our Spider Poem!
I projected the instructions on the overhead for additional visual supports
Painting our plates
Fabulous finished product. Aren't they adorable?!

To start Pumpkin Week off right, I introduced The Five Little Pumpkins poem for our Poem of the Week. I didn't have any chart paper left (I've since received an order through Amazon!), I had to write the poem on sentence strips and display it in a pocket chart. It turned out to be a nice change for the kiddos.

We also made a fun craft from a previous Poem of the Week: Pumpkin, Pumpkin. This super adorable craft is from Rhonda Baldacchino at Classroom Fun (plus it is FREE!). It was even more fun for our students, because they were already familiar with the poem, and and done several tasks with the words. This was a more hands-on, creative activity to do with the poem!

Then...I introduced the pumpkin!
We sat on the rug and discussed what we saw

Then we discussed what it felt like
And then, how it sounds

Here, I'm writing down some suggestions to name our pumpkin. Big Bertha Jack won!

My wonderful, class. Our Anchor Chart was much more full after our discussion...just take a look below...
Measuring our pumpkin's circumference with paperclips!

Our Pumpkin Exploration Table!
Close up of our mini pocket chart!

Close up of Big Bertha Jack and Mini
We finally get our hands dirty...
Gloves! Of course...
Yuck! Rotten Pumpkin!
And now, for our beautiful Pumpkin Anchor Chart...

A'int she a beaut?
I got the idea for this Anchor Chart set-up from Nicole Ricca at Mrs. Ricca's Kindergarten. Another fabulous freebie!

And, non-pumpkin related - I made a new bulletin board! Sort of by accident though. I wanted to create a Reading Strategies Poster to complement my Journey's Curriculum instruction. However, after I created these images and words on my computer last night and printed them, I realized they were WAY too big for the chart paper I wanted to put them on! So instead of wasting more paper and ink (which I am not provided by my school), I decided to create a bulletin board instead!

Tomorrow I will be introducing each strategy to my students during morning meeting. We will spend one week for each strategy practicing it during morning meeting, and any other opportunities during the day.
Too busy? I think it's pretty visually stimulating, but it will do for now.
That's all for now! I'm headed to bed soon (after the Sox game of course...)

A Sincere Thank You

Evening friends,

I am humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of others in support of my first DonorsChoose project. My project was posted on Tuesday, and by this morning it was already funded! I couldn't believe my eyes when I got my final donation (from my mom) and the email saying "Congratulations." It truly made my day.

I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who donated, to all of those who have donated to these causes and projects in the past, and to those who will in the future. It is because of you that teachers and students in underprivileged, under-performing, and underfunded schools are thriving, despite of these setbacks. The love, support, and generosity of others never ceases to amaze me.

A Mopey, Self-Deprecating Confession

Happy Saturday!

This week was terrible. Not in a "I'm so tired and stressed out from all the assessments and/or PD I had to complete this week" or even a "Yikes! My kid's were really unfocused and now I have to reteach everything again next week" kind of week. No - this week was one of those weeks where I am questioning my "calling" as an educator. I really, truly hate to admit that. I hate feeling stressed out every, single weeknight. I hate that I came home last night and cried on my couch for 2 hours before surrendering to my bed at 8 pm. I hate even more that I left my old job for this position. I feel like I made a mistake...

To give you a little context, here is the back story of my journey. I worked for 3 years as a special educator in a therapy school for students with behavioral, social/emotional, and neurological disorders. These students had significant challenges, ranging from learning disabilities, to conduct disorders, and traumatic brain injury. All of these children had a history of behavioral challenges that limited their functioning in a "regular" school  - thus, their least-restrictive environment was our school- State funded, sub-separate, Out-of-District Placement school in Boston. It was a high-anxiety environment, with a high turnover rate. The kids were challenging. The behaviors were challenging.  But, I loved it. I felt that the school was designed for meeting the needs of these students, and that my ideas were valuable. I felt that I could contribute to the well-being of my students by voicing my opinions, attempting new strategies, and asking for help. It was a team-approach, and I don't think many schools can honestly say that. Sure, schools can say we work together as a team, but is that really true? Each of my students had a TEAM of people working for his/her benefit- this team included me as the Special Educator, my Assistant Teacher, my Milieu Counselor, his/her Case Manager, any specialists (SLP, OT, Reading, Math), parents, and any additional staff (often times we would have a an administrator as part of our team, such as the educational supervisor, behavioral supervisor, principal, clinical direction, milieu director, or program director). It was a huge team effort! I won't lie - sometimes it was definitely too many cooks in the kitchen. And honestly, after some of these meetings, I would leave feeling less prepared, and more frustrated than before it started. But, I soon found out that there are FAR worse environments out there for teachers...

Additionally, I had friends at this job. I know, I know...that is  not the point of our occupation - just a bonus. However, have you ever had the worst day of your life in your current position, and talking to a colleague about it turns your day around? Having a team working with a particularly challenging student was so helpful during these times, because I knew I wasn't alone. The frustrations and stress I was feeling, was being felt by others too! We could talk, collaborate, or even just bitch about the situation (often down at the local pub on Friday afternoons), and I could go home and move on with my night, instead of dwelling on it all weekend, making myself sick with stress and worry, or completely shut myself off from the world (all of these are issues I am currently working on...). Those friendships were the reason I would wake up after a terrible day the day before, and trudge on into work. I knew my Littles were counting on me, but I also had people I could count on too. We need that love and support just as much as our Little Learners do.

After a particularly tumultuous school year last year, with a deteriorating team, many administrative shifts, and overall, a toxic work environment, I resigned from my position in June of 2013. It was a natural time for me to transition, so it did not come as a major surprise to my colleagues or team. I had just graduated from Simmons College with my Masters in ABA and was getting married in less than a week. While I knew the reasons I was leaving the program, my colleagues viewed this as a natural transition into a new teaching experience. I hadn't lined up a new job yet, but was eager to get the ball rolling. With my licensure in Moderate Disabilities, my Masters in ABA, and my experience with behavior and students with a variety of disabilities, I was confident I would find a job.

I did. After a summer of job interviews, portfolio building, and Thank You letter-writing, I nailed a job in my town. I talked myself up in the interview, highlighting my strengths, and discussing my goals for working on my weaknesses. The school talked itself too - lots of PD opportunities, small staff-to-student ratio in my classroom, and, the most important bullet for me: team collaboration. I heard endless discussions on how they are a school that really strives for the team approach. Everyone collaborates, everyone is willing to hear other ideas, and everyone lends a hand. I left the interview feeling good about this potential position. After hearing that I got the job a few days later, I was giddy and bubbling with excitement! The position I applied for and had ultimately gotten, was a special educator position in a Therapeutic Learning Program AKA Behavior Kids. It was a program as part of the public school district, thus, I assumed, "less severe" behavior challenges than the students in my previous school. After reading of their behaviors on paper, I still assumed that "aggression" in this environment, must be different than what I was used to, because, they were still in a "regular" school. Aggression in my previous school was just what it sounds like - aggression toward others meant punching, kicking, throwing large, heavy objects toward them. Aggression toward self meant SIB (self-injurious behavior). If the students were "aggressive" at our schools, it meant that this type of aggression was not able to be managed in a safe, secure, and effective way in the public school environment. I felt it was safe to assume that if these students were still in the public school environment, than the "aggression" was not to the level of those who had to have been "shipped out" to other, more restrictive environments. I was wrong.

Now, I want to make myself very, very clear. Behavior is my forte. I feel confident in my abilities to manage behavior, implement behavior support plans, and create engaging lessons and interactive environments as a means for positive supports. I am comfortable dealing with students who aggress toward me, spit at me, swear at me, calling me names, destroy my room, rip their work, etc. I know what to do. I have my degree in it for crying out loud! But this year, so far, as really made me doubt my abilities. I left my old position for reasons with the politics and administration, not because of the kids or environment. I left my old position to a new position in the same field, with the same issues, to help the same kids.

The first day of school was a disaster. You can read about that here. The first week, though looking back on it, wasn't a complete success, I did survive. Since then, my weeks have been up and down. Sadly, if I were average the weeks, based on my own feelings, I would say that the majority have been disappointing, stressful, and all-around, ungood. Sure, there are days that feel okay. But I have yet to leave the building at 3 pm (yeah right...try like 5), feeling successful. I have yet to feel like I've made a difference. I have yet to feel like I have any support at all. I have yet to feel that my behavioral education and experience has paid off. I feel like a first year teacher, new to the classroom, new to students, with ZERO classroom management skills.

What I've come to realize is that I assumed wrong. The behaviors are exactly the same. The kids are no different. They throw chairs at me, call me terrible names, and punch their classmates. They come from broken homes, wonderful successful homes, or no homes at all. They have trauma histories, behavioral disorders, and/or communication challenges.  I get them. I get what they need. I know how to help. Sadly, the district doesn't offer the support we as educators of these learners need to implement the ideal environment. The only difference between this school and my old school is the environment. We had set protocols for specific behaviors, and I had the support of my colleagues and administrators to implement behavior supports. Not here. I am on my own.
"Oh, you have a student who is trashing your room once a week? Do what you think would work with that student and let us know. Oh, no you can't do that. No, you can't do that either." Great...

In addition to the challenges I am having reaching out to my colleagues for support, my para has been absent 6 times since September. 6 TIMES! So, is it any wonder that I'm not able to remain on a consistent academic schedule with consistency in our behavioral support? Well - it doesn't even matter. Because we are 6 weeks in, and I feel like the damage is done. You know what they say about setting up your classroom from the start with your behavioral and academic expectations? And how much more effective your classroom will run for the rest of the year if you do this from the get go? Well, I'm one of those teachers who has always said that, and now I'm one of those teachers who is screwed because I didn't do that.

It also doesn't help that my toughest kid is universally disliked by my entire class, INCLUDING my para. He has significant learning and behavioral challenges, and is the one that has destroyed my room every week since school has started. Arguably, he needs the most support - when his needs are met, other students can succeed as well. Well, with my para being out, I don't have the man-power, or even just to BODIES to reinforce his positive behavior, thus, less attention = more outbursts. And even when my para is here, it find it nearly impossible for her to praise him for anything! "Well, he should know how to do that" or "Oh, he knows exactly what he should be doing. You shouldn't have to praise him for sitting in his chair." There is nothing more infuriating as an educator than another educator who doesn't get it....and frankly, is mostly likely doing significant damage to the students' confidence. AND,  I'm having a very hard time talking about my concerns with my supervisor and principal because she is considered the most capable, and the "best" para in the school. So what is it that I do not see?

I have left nearly every single day this year holding back tears. Then I come home, work on academics and behavioral supports until bedtime, just to wake up the next day, not being able to get anything done. I feel like I haven't taught anything in weeks. WEEKS. I feel like I have NO control over my classroom, and it pains me to say that. It pains me to "walky" to my fellow colleagues for CPI support in my classroom SEVERAL times a day. It makes me feel like I don't know what I'm doing. What's worse, is that I was talked up by the administrators as this "behavior guru." How embarrassing is it to continuously be the one who repeatedly asks for help with the SAME behaviors, with no progression since the beginning of the school year.

We've had one meeting in our discipline this year. And it was to talk about our SMART Goals. Talk about a lack of support.

I'm sorry for the depressing, defeating post today. I've needed to get these feelings off my chest for weeks. Friday was the final straw - something needs to change. I can't go on living like this, waking up every day, dreading my day at work. Hopefully, this post will kick start something in my life to better my situation. I'll keep you posted.

Greetings from My Bed!

Happy Monday!

Not for me, but hopefully for you! I am home sick with some sort of stomach bug. After having an excruciating headache for the majority of the day yesterday while visiting The Husband's family in Western Mass, it began to turn from excruciating to unbearable. On the car ride home, I couldn't keep my eyes open, but couldn't fall asleep because of the pain. After an hour from home, my mouth started watering...and we all know what that means! I threw up right there, in his car, on the highway, 50 miles from home. It was fun.

I came home, and attempted to sleep. After sleeping on and off from 10pm to 4am, I got up again to throw up one last time before calling in to work. I feel bad, but not as bad as I would have felt if I had vomited on a kid.

I was going to spare you the gory details of that episode, but decided against it. This blog is all about honesty, isn't it?

In other news, lots has happened since I last blogged (September 22nd?! Are you serious!?!? C'mon Rae!)

The Husband and I FINALLY chose our pictures for our wedding album. I still need to send the list to our photographer, but the hard part is over!

We also received our wedding video, and I cannot be HAPPIER with how it turned out! I am so pleased with every single detail of the videography experience, I can't express enough how amazing it is to have a video of your wedding day! If anyone is in the Massachusetts or New Hampshire area looking for a videographer, LET ME KNOW! I have reference cards for our videographer (I can get my video for free!), and I highly HIGHLY recommend him!

I also posted some new products on my TPT store!

I've also donated my Best Selling Fall Activity for a giveaway hosted by Table Talk with C and C!

Be sure to enter the giveaway by clicking the Linky image above!

I've also set my October goals, which I shared on Instagram. I created this image using the A Beautiful Mess app. So far, so good!

I would love if you would link up your October Goals with me on Instagram! All you have to do is create your own set of goals and post it on Instagram with the hashtags #octobergoals and #mindfulrambles!

Also, via Instagram, I won one of Meet Miss Parker's amazing fabric letters! I hung it up in our bedroom, as both The Husband and I have R for a first name initial!

We use the Envisions math curriculum in our district, so here are some pictures of our week in math.

Each week, we have a new Poem of the Week. Throughout the week, we focus on this poem and complete tasks in our Poetry Notebooks each day. I plan on devoting an entire post to our Poetry Time, but for now, pictures will have to do:

On Monday and Tuesday of this last week, we focused on our worries and managing anxiety. This is an ongoing goal of our class, but we focused on this activity during our ELA Center Time. This project is from Read with Me ABC's fabulous freebie!
Here is the completed craft hanging on the wall outside our classroom:

We also continued work in our Word Work Notebooks. I originally started the notebooks as part of our Grade 1 Journeys curriculum, as it has you use the notebooks for some word work activities. Then, after seeing all of the wonderful Interactive Notebooks for beginning readers, I began utilizing the notebooks for more than just what was prescribed in Journeys. The following images and activities are from the following two products. Both are fabulous and I highly recommend checking them out for your emerging readers!

Here are my Littles working hard on their notebooks:

"Mrs. Wallace! Look! I made a French Apple!"

On Thursdays and Fridays we have a Speech Therapist come into our classroom to do Speech Groups. She has 2 of my kids on her caseload, so it's just a bonus for the rest. One of my kiddos (that I've talked about in other posts and on my Instagram), has limited skills, and has lots of work in order to meet any first grade standards. At this point, he is still learning to identify the letters in his name. Speech Groups, while an important time for all of my students, regardless of SLP services, is a time in which I have decided to pull this student for additional support that he wouldn't normally receive in our instructional times. My other students do not need to work on these skills, so unfortunately, this student rarely would have this instruction, unless I get the opportunity to work with him one on one. However, the level of support he needs will not be met with me working with him one-on-one just a couple times a week, or when I can fit it in. That's why I had decided to pull him from Speech Groups, and do more meaningful and crucial activities with him.

On Thursdays I am focusing on Literacy Skills. First up, we are working on name writing and letter recognition:

On Fridays I am working on Math Skills. Sadly, I don't have pictures of that yet...I don't know where my head was at!

Also on Friday we did a fun Fall Time Craft during our Free Time.

After discussing the colors and images of fall, I had the students mix paints to create Fall colors. We also put out "fall" stencils for students to use if desired to add to their images of fall. The students were each provided with a canvas to do their art work. They turned out so nice - I'll make sure to take a picture of the dried product when I return to work tomorrow!

I've added a new tab on my blog. Check it out above! It is devoted to some of the workouts I've created and have worked for me! I have created images of these workouts and posted them. It started on Instagram, but I decided to post them to my blog as well to reach as many people as possible. These workouts have worked for me, and I hope they have worked for you too! For more workouts that I have posted (or will post) on Instagram, check the hastag #runteacherrun. I have used this hashtag for any workouts I completed, either ones I created, or ones I've found from others. If you have any you would like to add, please use the hashtag as well so we can all find each others workouts!

I've also reopened my Poll on the sidebar of this blog. If you would like to voice your opinion on my next blog post, please do so by voting in the poll! 

Here's to hoping my plain spaghetti will stay down and I can return to work tomorrow!
Back to Top