Quote of the Week

Never say you are "just" a teacher. That's like saying Clark Kent is "just" Superman.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Meeting the Diverse Needs of Students, by Mandi Lussier, Exceptional Education Teacher, West Elementary

As an educator we all have students in our classrooms that require more attention or even one on one instruction. This is true in any classroom whether you teach special education or regular education. As a special educator this is the case with all of my students. All of my students have different needs, different abilities, and different ways in which they learn. It is not an easy task to make sure that all of your students needs are met and there are going to be days that this does not happen within your classroom. Every day I strive for every student in my class to walk away with their needs being met and having learned at least one thing that day. I know that most teachers strive for the same thing with their students in their class. There are several teachers that have a regular education class but also have students with special needs in their class. This is a struggle for most teachers only because they are not trained in special education. If we want ALL of our students to have their needs met then we need to work together as a team. We don’t need to look at each student as just our student, we need to look at ALL students and say ALL students are ours and strive to help any and every student we come in contact with. Here are some of my ideas/strategies that I use to make sure my student’s needs are being met.

1.      I group students by ability and not by grade. I teach students in Kindergarten through fifth grade.  The reason I group by ability is because there are some students in fourth grade that are reading on a kindergarten level so I put them in the same group. This way when we split up into centers they are doing the same subject at the same time.

2.      I plan for each student by ability and not by grade level. My students are not on the grade level that they are in, that is why they are in my room and it would be very unwise for me to make them do things on their grade level. My goal is to get them on grade level but to do that I need to start where they are and build on their prior knowledge.  For example, I may have several students working on addition. I may have some students that are working on double digit addition with a number line and I may have other students doing simple addition with numbers up to 10 using counters. Each student is working on addition but on their level and the end result is the same that I am building on prior knowledge.

3.      I take regular data on what each student is doing in my class. I use their IEP goals and take data on them to make sure they are progressing as they should.

4.      I collaborate with my EA’s in my classroom on each student and see how they are doing. I may not see something or pick up on something that they do and they may have better ways or ideas on how to teach something.

5.      Last but not least I collaborate with grade level teachers. I ask questions to see how they teach a certain subject so I can get ideas from them and sometimes I just bounce ideas off of them to see what they think. I am always open to new ideas and ways to teach my students. It takes a village to teach students and we all need to be open to new ideas. Remember it is ok to not have all the answers but it is not okay to not try.

There are many more ideas/strategies that can be used to help meet the needs of your students. I do not claim to be an expert or have all the answers and I learn what works by trial and error. This is what has worked for me and my classroom but I would love to hear any ideas/strategies that you have used and that have been successful in your classroom and for your students.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and I cannot wait to hear what works for your classroom. Have a GREAT day.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Role of CTE in Education, by Summer Major, Agriculture Teacher at Lebanon High School

Think back to the last time you did the following: took your car to a mechanic, had your hair cut, went to the farmer’s market, planted a garden, landscaped your house, took your child to daycare, took your animals to the vet, went hunting and/or fishing, visited a website, went to the bank or an accountant, went to the doctor, ate in a restaurant, built something out of wood, saw EMS personnel at work, baked a cake or cooked a meal, and the list could go on and on.  Chances are you have done many of these things pretty recently and some of them every day or pretty often.  So what does all of this have to do with education?  The answer….Everything!!!  All of the instances above include skills that are taught in our CTE (Career Technical Education) classes on a daily bases.  CTE provides students with a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, and high demand careers! 
Often times CTE and “core academic subjects” are separated, which in reality it only makes since for us to be together!  The goal of CTE is to prepare students to be college- and career-ready by providing academic skills, employability skills and technical, job-specific skills.  CTE teachers are able to take what the students learn in English, math, and science and help them apply it to everyday life and future careers.  We help make a well-rounded student, which is one goals of the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act. 
A key factor for CTE classes is CTSOs (Career Technical Student Organizations).  CTSO’s like FFA, HOSA, FBLA, Skills USA to name a few extend teaching and learning through innovative programs, business and community partnerships, and leadership experiences at the school, state, and national levels.  Within these organizations, members have the opportunity to attend conferences, meet people in the industry, learn and use soft-skills, and are eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarships.   

Did you know….
                *Wilson County’s CTE graduation rate is currently 99.28%
*Students may earn certifications… CPR, First Aid, AED, Teen CERT Certification Hunter’s Safety, Boating Safety, OSHA Certification, ASE (Automotive Service of Excellence), Serve Safe,
Hours toward their state cosmetology license, prepares students to take Microsoft Office Specialist and some Adobe Certifications.
*Students may earn college credit for Greenhouse Management, Agriculture Business/Finance,   Intro to Criminal Justice, and Early Childhood Education Services
*A ratio of one CTE class for every two academic classes minimizes the risk of students dropping out of high school. (ACTE)
If you’re not familiar with the CTE programs at your local high school, I encourage you to check them out!  Each school may be a little different, so ask them questions about their programs or how you can work together on your specific subject or with a specific student.  You will find that CTE teachers have a passion for their content area and a love for their students.  They have a way building relationships with their students and teaching life lessons that you can’t learn out of a book. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Keeping Parents on your Side, by Julie Davenport, First Grade Teacher at W. A. Wright Elementary

During my first few years of teaching I thought that in order to present a professional and knowledgeable appearance to my students’ parents, I had to ALWAYS BE RIGHT. There were a few times when parents questioned my classroom procedures, grading policies, or choices in the classroom. I worried that if I conceded to those parents, I would lose their respect and trust as a professional educator. So I squared my shoulders, met the parents’ challenges, and assured them that I was right and I knew what I was doing.

However, after a few years I was confronted with a situation in which a parent brought up an excellent challenge to my grading policy. It forced me to listen to his reasoning and I realized that he had a really good point. In fact, it was so good that I changed my grading policy. And guess what! I didn’t lose his respect! In fact, he thanked me for listening, being willing to adjust, and our relationship continued in a positive manner for the remainder of the year.

In actuality, my grading policy hadn’t been bad, but by listening to a parent’s concern, I was able to make it even better. I learned through that experience that parents have some good ideas if I am willing to listen instead of feeling the need to prove that I’m right.

I also learned the value of telling a parent “oops, I was wrong. I’ll correct it”. Being willing to admit mistakes and keeping parents on your side is so much better than trying to sidestep a mistake and having an awkward relationship for the rest of the year.

In short, parents don’t expect us to be perfect. They just want us to work with them. Being a good listener to their concerns and being willing to admit mistakes are two ways I learned to keep them on my side.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Role of MAP and How MAP Teachers and Home School Teachers Can Collaborate for More Effective Transition – Shaun Caven, Special Education Teacher at MAP Academy

MAP stands for Modified Academic Program. Several years ago, MAP was mostly for students with behavioral issues, inside a regular classroom setting. With the introduction of CIP classes in regular schools, MAP rarely has students with behavioral issues, unless the student’s behavior becomes such that the regular school cannot handle them. In recent years, MAP has seen more students who have either gotten in trouble with the police and/or have been willful and persistent in their school violations in a regular school setting. MAP is predominately made up of students that have made a series of poor decisions, or committed one zero tolerance offense, and been made to leave their regular school. The primary goal of the staff at MAP is to help students learn to manage their decisions and/or behaviors that ultimately got them sent to MAP, in the first place.

The most effective way for teachers in two schools to work together is through an open line of communication. When students come to MAP, it is very helpful for the teacher at the home school to communicate with the MAP teacher about the things they have already covered in class and/or things that need to be covered again. Many students would choose to get in trouble overlooking “dumb” in class. Unfortunately, many of our students have holes in their education and have missed key portions of information. Because they would prefer not to look “dumb” in front of their peers, many times, they act out to divert attention away from the original problem—they do not know how to answer the teacher’s question, because they lack the educational background to make an informed decision.

When a student comes to MAP, communication with the teacher at the home school is key. In the same train of thought, communication is definitely needed when a child returns to their regular school. Students often have a behavioral “target” on them, when they return to their regular school. If MAP teachers email the regular teacher and make them aware of the student’s progress, grade average, behavioral concerns, and potential ways they can prevent behavioral outburst, it will only bridge the gap, when a child returns so they don’t feel so out of place. For 9th grade students who do not start the year at a regular school, it would also be beneficial if a staff member from MAP could accompany them to their regular high school. Transitioning into high school can be hard enough for a child, but when they have been in an alternative school setting, it can make it even more difficult.

Both the regular and MAP teacher should make every effort to follow the pacing guide for subjects, so a student will hopefully be within just a few days of where they are (or were) at the school they are transitioning from. If the county’s pacing guides are not followed as closely as possible, it makes student transition excessively hard.

A student may succeed at MAP without any communication between the regular and MAP teachers. However, with effective communication between both the regular and MAP teachers, the transition for the student becomes easier for everyone involved. The goal for both the regular school and MAP should be for student success. With collaboration, in terms of communication and staying in line with the county’s pacing guides, we can almost guarantee a more effective transition for students. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Accommodating Students with Disabilities, by Ashlee Hargrove, Exceptional Education Teacher at Rutland Elementary School

              One of the most challenging things about teaching can be trying to meet the various needs of students in our classrooms.   For students with disabilities, classroom accommodations are often the key to success in the classroom.  Some accommodations can be as simple as preferential seating while others may involve changing the way that material is presented or the way that students respond to show their learning.   Below are some ideas of classroom accommodations for students with disabilities and how to use them in your classroom.   

During Classroom Instruction
· Seat away from doors, windows, other disruptive students.
· Give directions one step at a time. Repeat if necessary. Students who have trouble attending to instruction or directions will often only process the first or last thing that was said.
· Use visuals.  Many teachers introduce new skills with anchor charts and keep the anchor charts up for the students to refer back to.    
· Create outline for note-taking.
· List activities of the lesson on the board.  Some students may need a visual schedule while others will benefit from have the steps listed.
· Read aloud tests and assignments (different ways to do this unless a specific way was decided on by the IEP team).
· Provide a copy of notes (Take pictures with IPAD and send to parents, copy another student’s note).
· Extended time

Student Work
· Give worksheets with fewer items.
· Modify the format: fewer choices, fill in the blank, short answer, color coding
· Limit timed test or only grade what was completed within the amount of time given.
· Divide assignments into chunks. Give student a goal for when each part should be completed.
· Allow student to redo missed items for partial credit.

· Use a binder with separate sections for each subject. Color-code materials for each subject.
· Allow time for the student to organize materials and assignments for home.
· Make sure the student has a system for writing down assignments.

Disruptive Behaviors
· Have a cue (ex. touch on the shoulder, sticky note on desk when on task) to remind the student to stay on task or not interrupt that only you and that child are aware of.
· Distract student from the behavior (give the student a “note” to take to another teacher).
· Allow for movement breaks.
· Let the student use a “fidget” if it helps the student to focus.
· Create goals together.

· If the behaviors continue, create a behavior contract with the student.

Things You Can Do Daily To Be A Better Professional, by Michael DelBosco, Spanish Teacher at Lebanon High School

Being a super teacher and person on a daily basis can be difficult. However, doing the little things every day can help you to feel better about yourself and help you to become a better professional over time. What can you do?!
1.       Be positive. Look at your life in a positive way every day. Look at how your students are learning. Look at all you have accomplished today, this week, this semester, and this year. View challenges as opportunities. Try to see everything in a positive light; it will make all your days better.
2.       Be organized. Keep all of your materials and supplies in order and in place. Veteran teachers have tons of ideas to offer; just ask them. Organization can save you time in a crunch and throughout your day. It also sets a good example for your students; it may inspire them to keep their things organized and neat, too.
3.       Be prepared and timely. Get to work on time-even early! Get all of your materials ready the day before or the morning before your students arrive. Prepare for and get to meetings ahead of time; have paper and pen ready just in case you need to take notes or to jot down reminders or questions. This preparation will give you peace of mind for each new day with all its various activities.
4.       Be polite and thoughtful. The day is not just about you. Remember, you are here for your students. They need you. They look up to you. You need to set a good example for them by being nice and caring. Help them when you can, and do it in a thoughtful manner whenever possible. You are also here for your fellow man. Your coworkers may need you, too; help them—be it janitor, secretary, educational assistant, teacher, or administrator. They may need you to lift their spirits on a bad day, to listen to them, or to do them a simple favor. Do what you can to be nice and uplift or encourage all of those around you.
5.       Set goals. Think about what objectives you want your students to master. Think about what you want and need to achieve. Then, go for them! You CAN do it! Learn new things every day. Learn from lesson plans that did not work. Be flexible; change and improve. Solve problems for others and yourself. Make mistakes? Learn from them and set new goals. Be that overachiever who strives to succeed. Goals help us orient our lives to getting things done. Set them and meet them. Finishing daily goals can help us feel a sense of accomplishment that makes any day better.
6.       Take care of yourself. You do need to think of others at work; it’s just a natural part of our job with students. However, you need to take care of yourself, too. You cannot be the best you if you are sick or down. You need to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. You need to take care of your body--eat right and exercise. You may need to spend time with friends and family to be in a good state of mind. You may also need to spend some time alone in peace and quiet. You need to have some fun and do things that you enjoy from time to time. All work and no play are not good for the body or the soul. You really do need to do these things for yourself in order to be a happy and whole person. Find the time for you throughout the week and over the weekends.
7.       Be grateful. Think of all the good things in your life and do it daily! Focusing on the good things in your life will help you on even your worst day. It may be hard to change your mindset from negative to positive, but it can help you move on and make it through that hard day. What was good today? Your one good student who did well. Your one good class. Your supportive administration. Your pet. Your lunch break. Your uplifting friend’s text. Your favorite team. Your mom. Your child. Your significant other. Your paycheck. Whatever it is; focus on it. And it probably is more than one thing; we are very blessed in this country. We have many things, and we have freedoms. Be grateful for all the wonderful things in your life; never forget them!

These seven things can be very beneficial in your professional and your private life. I am sure that you can think of other things that can help you, too. Work on them daily and you WILL be a better professional one day at a time. Maybe, even one day, you’ll be…a SUPER teacher! ;-)