the moment that made today worth it

Or the two moments…

The best thing that happened today was while we were watching the Odd Squad movie. My kindergarten student came back from his mainstream class and after about 10 minutes new characters came on the screen. “They’re from Odd Squad!!”, he said repeatedly. Finally I said, “This is Odd Squad!” and he said,”I thought it was Spiderman!”.

Second best thing…?

Watching my kids dance ❤️❤️ I wish I could share the video.

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compassion 


I was listening to a podcast the other morning on the way to work and I had to keep pausing it as I tried to write down what I was hearing. It was a conversation between Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg. Sharon was talking about empathy and compassion.

Sharon stated that empathy is the resonance, the sensing of stress or difficulty and it can lead to many different things. Empathy can lead to overwhelm or blame but it can also lead to compassion. 

She said that compassion implies a stability of attention, that we are not going to fall into it or get overwhelmed. It implies a balance of caring for self and other. Compassion implies wisdom or intelligence understanding that its not all up to me. 

I was really struck by this conversation and I feel that it strongly resonates with the work we do as teachers. There are the days that empathy overwhelms me. The days when I throw my hands up, have no idea how to proceed and begin to shut down because the job seems impossible. I know that many people I work with have most likely gone down this same path. This can happen for so many reasons but primarily I think it is happening because many walls have been put up based on fears and avoidance. It is not that the teachers do not have empathy for their students, its that they lack the mental health background needed to meet these students’ needs. On top of that their perceptions of the children and of what is happening around them are clouded by biases that they are not yet even able to see or admit to. So now we have these adults who are acting out of empathy as well as misunderstanding and lack of specific skills. This does not mean they are not good teachers. It does not mean they don’t care for their students but it does mean that they are overwhelmed, often blaming others and having a really difficult time seeing and admitting to their own racial biases and exploring how those biases are effecting what they do from moment to moment.

I think about myself and my own practice. I know that I want to explore my own biases. I want to do better by my students and I know that it is not about them and their need to change but about me and how I show up each moment. Am I willing to open myself up? 

I also know that when compassion arises from my empathy that is when I am in the flow. That is when I use reflective listening, acknowledging students’ feelings. Its when I stop trying to control and instead I begin to co-regulate with a student. Its when I let go of everything else, when I trust that my colleagues have the other students and I commit myself to the moment with the one student in crisis. 

I wish I lived in compassion more often. It feels amazing to be there and to see your impact on a student. I know other teachers feel compassion. I think our school needs to find a way to tap into our moments of compassion and use that as a way to bring us all together, as a way for us to begin to open up and be vulnerable and start critically examining why we as individuals and as a community are not living in compassion more of our days.

evidence based

Tonight I went to a gallery walk of evidence based practices for autism. I went to support a coworker and ended up getting some ideas for my classroom and seeing ASD and ECSE people I had not seen in some time. Overall it was a pretty good event. It made me think though. There is nothing like this for our district’s EBD programming. 


When I taught early childhood autism I felt like I was part of a community that extended beyond my team at my school. I received updates through an ECSE listserv as well as through an ASD one. I continue to receive those emails but nothing has been added since I changed what disability category I teach. This really frustrates me. And perhaps enough for me to do something about it next year. EBD teachers should know one another. They should have opportunities to get together, share ideas, share stories and provide support for one another. This has been coming up often for me. Mabye now that I’m done with school its time to take a step towards making it happen.

Some ideas from the night-



Five Point Scale calming bottles. These were a make and take so I made and took. I think I might make these with my students near the beginning of the year next year. 



I also spoke with an occupational therapist who is doing groups with the zones of regulation. She inspired me to spend some time this summer planning to implement zones in my classroom next year.



A Zones book is their first lesson paired with video clips of characters representing the different zones..


My Many Colored Days

Finally I spoke with a guy who works with middle school students and he had an emotional check-in/check out sheet that I think I could tweak to meet my students’ needs.


He also uses Greatness Receipts which are a lot like brag tags. I think my students would enjoy brag tags. He lets them put all Greatness Receipts earned into a drawing at the end of the week to win a prize. I’ve always been interested in trying out the brag tags. Maybe next year is the year.

Tonight I compiled data on one of my students for his IEP meeting tomorrow. I have looked over his academic goals and data and I know I want to refine the focus of them in order to work more intentionally on them and progress him more quickly. 


I looked at his behavior data too. What struck me about that data is how well he has been doing over the last two weeks as he has been taking his meds. It is pretty phenomenal, the difference. Cursing has gone from a daily occurrence to nonexistent. Instead of being off task, angry and hurtful towards others often he is helping adults, offering to support his peers so that they can be successful and completing the majority of tasks (both academic and non-academic) on time.

I then got the idea to insert the same timeframe of data for another student whose placement in my program I have questioned all year. The results seem clear to me. This student has hardly dropped below 70% in positive points. I feel like this is undeniable evidence that this student should NOT be in a federal 3 setting. 

I looked at data from all of my students and there’s been a lot of progress for most of them this year except for one. His data is very discrepant from the others and I’m starting to think maybe its not working for him in this setting. 

You are missing out 

You’re missing out if you don’t know kids like mine. 

And I don’t mean “know” in the sense that they go to school where you teach or in the sense that you see them playing at a park by your home. I mean KNOW. Like spend time with them. Through the good and the bad. 

Love them.

You are missing out if you don’t get to love someone like my students.

Just reflecting this morning on how this week has been and how warm and full my heart has felt with my students. In a week that is typically so hard to get through because it’s the one right before break I have enjoyed my class so much. I am grateful to be able to teach them and learn from them. 

It all takes time but the time is so worth it.

what I am trying to accomplish

“It’s time to slow down, think about what we are trying to accomplish, and do that well.” -Taberski


Behavior strategies, room arrangement, IEP data collection, writing IEP goals, evaluation of students, meeting with families, supporting families, behavior data collection, literacy strategies, math strategies, science kits, CAFE, Reading Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, F&Ps, Math Workshop, Word Work, Words Their Way, Just Right Books, standards, observations, launches, exit tickets, testing, interims, behavior, social skills, self regulation skills, Zones, tracking student behavior throughout the day, appropriate reinforcers, engaging material, rigor, demonstrating learning, “I can” statements, building relationships with students, building relationships with coworkers, lesson planning, prepping for lessons, getting behavior under control, teaching how to read, getting students to attend to lessons….the list goes on. 


These are all things I am supposed to be doing. Most on a daily basis.


But I read the above quote in an article I am reading for class and it made me stop and think. What has been working for me recently is exactly this; slowing down and thinking about what I am trying to accomplish. I feel bad that I am a year and seven months in and only just now feeling like I might understand what my job is but I guess that means next year will be better. It is sad though that my students have missed out on learning some things because I was so overwhelmed I wasn’t truly teaching. I can blame their behavior and, yes, their behavior often gets in the way of our having successful lessons BUT when their behavior wasn’t in the way my lessons have been all over the place and trying to encompass a million things all at once. I have spent the last year and a half dipping my toes into various things I am supposed to be doing, never doing any of it thoroughly because there was always something else I was supposed to be doing so I moved to that. I haven’t been able to juggle all of these balls at once. And the result has been a lack of academic progress for my students. They had not progressed in reading or math up until recently. 


I am not going to blame myself completely here. I am going to place some blame on the system. There are some great strategies out there for teachers, some great resources and approaches to teaching but when you throw all of them at new teachers all at once and expect them to do all of it AND have their students make progress…well, I think that is stupid. Maybe it is different for general education teachers although I see them struggling too, unable to find minutes in their day to do all of the expectations of new programming with students. 


But what are my goals for my students?

1. That their self regulation and social skills progress to a point where they can join a mainstream class and decrease their time in my class.

2. That they learn to read. 

3. That they learn about themselves and find empowerment through learning the stories of others like them and through sharing their own stories. 

4. That they are happy. That they have fun. That they develop friendships.

5. That they make progress towards or within grade level math.

It has only been in the last couple of months that I have focused in on these goals with my students. I am beginning to plan in a more simplistic way that focuses on these goals. I know that this focus will greatly improve my work next year. I can only hope that I help my current students make some progress on these specific goals going forward this year.

Grateful

I’ve been faced with a lot of challenges lately. The stressors seem to add up. Seem to never end. A kick to the head and a trip to urgent care- no concussion but now to navigate worker’s comp (in my spare time). Starting with a mentor after having such a rough start to the year, knowing I need to learn more to do my job, and then every time he comes to observe I excel and the students are actually quite well behaved and on task…waiting to hear I’m doing fine and I don’t need a mentor. I would be disappointed to hear that as I feel strongly that I need some help. 

Last night I learned that I can’t take my last EBD course next semester and do my clinical practice at the same time. I was then offered the opportunity to take that course now. For 8 Thursdays and 2 Saturdays. And my head swims with how much of the very little time I have that class will eat up. There will be assignments on top of the many hours in class. 

I’m working on turning things around though. If my students can turn their day around after some of the most out of control and impossible mornings then I can turn my year around. Taking some time to focus on my mental health. Visited my doctor. Put in for two days off next week strictly so I can get ahead on lesson plans and paperwork. Planning to join the YWCA this week and go when I can. Taking time to knit in the evenings, which feels so good! Also trying to see the positives.

I have so many people on my side, rooting for me, supporting me. I am truly blessed. I am most grateful to my husband. I can’t imagine how frustrating and painful it is for him to hear my stories of being punched and kicked by students or not always being provided the best support. I know driving me to urgent care to check for a concussion was very hard. But, he stands by me. Makes my lunches and breakfasts for the next day. Listens when I complain. Let’s me cry when it all becomes too much and constantly tells me I’m doing a great job. I don’t know how I’d make it without him. 

Today is actually Karva Chauth, Husbands Day and I hope he knows how grateful I am to him for standing by me in all my crazy. Today also starts MEA. Conferences today and then Thursday and Friday off. Time to recharge and get a little ahead with things.