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.



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.

moving again

It was only a little over a month ago when I posted “new year, new room“. And now, on almost the last day of September I had to pack up my stuff and move rooms. Again. For those of you who have been following things this will be my 4th classroom in just a little over a year. 

The decision was made on Tuesday at our special ed meeting. The question was raised as to what to do for my class. Their behaviors have been extreme at times and it has been a challenging start to the year. Getting me a mentor is one thing that is being done. He and I have our first meeting next week. Also, there are higher ups coming to my room to observe and provide concrete feedback, ideas, and support. Also, I am really working hard on getting my shit together. Learning. Working with the academic specialists. Got a new data app on the phone to track behavior. I am making progress. 

But, unfortunately that all is not fast enough. You know, because in this country if we do not have immediate results we are not happy. But moving my room again is immediate. So I am to start in that new space tomorrow. 

I was told, “Just move what you need for tomorrow.” But that seems to be wrong to me. If I want students to feel like this is their new learning space and be excited to be there it needs to feel like a classroom. 

I spent four hours after school getting it set up. I am so very blessed to have coworkers who are true friends who stepped up to help. Five people stayed for varying amounts of time and helped me brainstorm what to do with the space, move large and small pieces of furniture and generally made me feel better about the whole thing.

Now it is set up.

Tomorrow I will move some more things and then next week on Tuesday I hope to move all the rest of my stuff. I will settle into this new room. But, if they try to move me again that might be my last day. I don’t think it is fair to have to move my classroom so much. I think that my time would probably be better spent lesson planning, getting curricula, organizing materials, collecting data, working on IEPs, contacting families, completing due process letters, talking with doctors who are calling to ask about students, teaming with outside organizations…..the list goes on and on of all the things that are waiting for me to get to them.

But for now…here’s the new space.

OH! And, since a student broke my SmartBoard AND my computer in the last room I got a new computer today…a laptop! I am excited for the laptop. I think I can keep it much safer than I could a desktop and I can take it home and use it to work from home. So, there were some positives today.

Another positive, only 4 students today and we rocked it overall!

roller coaster week 

I was just looking at Facebook and there was a post about the Forest School. Inquisitive kids huddled around a teacher in nature appearing eager to learn. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to work with kids who are so eager to learn?

But then I caught myself. Why would I think my own students are not also inquisitive and eager to learn? They are. They show me often that they are. I had to remind myself that just today I was on the playground with two of my students crouched down watching baby Box Elder bugs crawl all over the place. We discussed the safety of touching them and who their parents might be and remembered that we shouldn’t kill them because they are just living their life.

And then I watched my students pair up with one another and play. For real. Like kids play. Laughing and chasing and challenging one another and listening to one another for the rest of recess.

Shortly before this moment we were in the classroom. It was a mess. Torn paper all over the floor. Books thrown from the bookshelf. Pencils and crayons all over. We had just finished reading our Super Hero Training book and had just taken our worries and thrown them out in a place of our choosing (some chose the garbage, others the sink and a couple chose the funny spot of the toilet). After throwing our worries away I took a risk and told them they would need to clean the room in five minutes before we went for recess. They scrambled up and ran to their assigned jobs. They went beyond what was asked and returned furniture to its correct spaces too. Then they all returned to the rug. One looked up at me and said, “Teacher Beth, can I give you a hug?” Sure, I said. He hugged me and sat down. Then one by one 3 more asked the same question, came up, gave me a hug and sat down again. 

This was a rough week. I cried on Wednesday as I sat in the principal’s office and had to consider requesting a mentor. I cried as I felt like I couldn’t do anything right and I was failing at this job. I cried because I want to be a great teacher, I want to do amazing things for these kids, I want to feel proud and successful. I cried because I have to let go of my pride and open up to the fact that I need help. I cried because even though I need help I know I’m good at some parts of all this and I’m not sure administration realizes this.

And then Thursday I came into work completely drained from crying on Wednesday and cried again. In front of my youngest student who ran out of the room scared because his teacher was crying. He even said to me later, “Why was you crying?” It broke my heart. 

So this week was like a roller coaster from feeling utterly defeated and sucked of any confidence or ounce of energy to watching my students have these beautiful moments today when I thought to myself, we can do this. We can be a kind, loving community who struggles from time to time but also grows and learns together.

So, I’ll spend another day this weekend planning the lessons for the coming week that we may or may not even do and I’ll get up Monday morning and I’ll go back and I’ll try it all again.

thankful the week is almost over

I’m again thinking about other jobs…just like last year. I’m starting to feel like some of the advice I receive makes me feel like I’m doing everything wrong. It doesn’t come with concrete feedback like, this is working, build on that. 

But just like last year there are adults coming into my room who are saying that it is super hard. They advocated for me at a meeting yesterday which I really appreciate. 

And then two friends stayed until six o’clock with me helping to organize leveled binders for each student. 

As we did that though I thought of the million other things on my to do list such as: complete lesson plans, prep emergency work for when we have to get up and leave the room due to another student’s behavior, call families to set IEP meetings, send a meeting notice to the families, send an outlook request to the team, show up at my third staff meeting of the week after school on Wednesday, improve my leveled work, write up clear guidelines for the adults to use around behavior, tape off an area to designate where a student needs to stay due to a history of extremely unsafe behavior, clean the tables and desks because my students pulled ceiling tiles out of the ceiling and smashed them on furniture yesterday….the list goes on. 

I woke up with a stomach ache this morning.

And as I ride the bus to work I know there are jobs less stressful than mine and a lot of these people are probably headed to them.

And I think, am I an idiot for doing this? It would be so easy to bail. 

But so many people bail on these kids. It’s heartbreaking. And I keep thinking, I’m still in school for this, I haven’t learned all I need to know to do this. I asked my professor if she could help me get into some classrooms this year to observe teachers who are doing what I do. I think that could help.


I signed up for an online course this year-“A Year to Clear” which is not just about clearing your space but clearing yourself too. Within the first few lessons the instructor, Stephanie Bennett Vogt discusses overwhelm. That paralysis that happens when we try to tackle everything all at once. Vogt begins to describe her approach to clearing in which you spend a short amount of time focused on a space that you want to clear. With intentionality you spend one minute clearing that space (maybe going through the mail pile) and you do this for one minute each day. It is her slow drip method. It is not how I function but I think I need to move more towards doing things this way. 

I feel overwhelmed though. My “to do” list on my phone is long and filled with red dates indicating the due date of many tasks has passed. And the red overwhelms me so I scan by those things quickly and convince myself they are not important to complete now. But maybe that is part of the lesson. I don’t need to complete them. I just need to spend one minute on them with intentionality. 

Lesson planning doesn’t seem to fit into this approach. Today I spent about 4 hours working on the week’s plan. It is not complete nor does it have “I can ” statements or standards listed. It’s probably not at all what I am supposed to be producing but each time I sit down to plan and try to see what each grade level is supposed to be learning I become very overwhelmed and can not understand how to cram all of that into one block of time. And so I create lessons that I am not sure are giving my students all they need. I want to do better but I have NO model. None. I have some great resources from a teacher I met on Twitter but I still have no map of what I am doing. 

And then there is the behavior. My room got torn apart on Friday and I had a student stay late due to crisis behaviors. It felt like last year. I feel like I learned so much last year and thought I would have so much more under control this year but this year feels like starting a new job all over again. When will this stop feeling like year one?

But, I am going to breathe. I cleaned the house a bit today. Started some kombucha brewing. Did a bit of homework for class. Made dinner. I accomplished a few things. It is what it is and I’ll do what I can. I am going to go prep lunch and breakfast, put in the laundry and then do some more reading for class…oh, and spend one minute on my Classroom Engagement Plan which was due the first week of school. 

why do I expect perfection 8 days in

I felt so frustrated today. My students did too. Some of them really showed me they wanted to learn and tried so hard to fight the urge to become explosive alongside peers who were loud, big, and aggressive.

I had a lot of runners today. Five out of eight ran at one point in the day or another. Four of those five ran throughout the majority of the afternoon. 

I yelled. I yelled and then a kid yelled and another adult told him not to yell. But I had yelled. God, I don’t want to be doing this, feeling this only 8 days in! I had been doing so much better last year! 

I sat with students and talked today too. Heard about deaths in their families along with stories of really hard and scary things they’ve witnessed. We spoke openly about some home situations and how hard they must be. And I invited students to feel like this classroom was there’s. Not to tear down but to build up, to create as the space they want to be in.

But I find myself feeling like my class is once again set up for failure having such a large age range (from 5-8 years old). But then I think, geez Beth, maybe it’s you. I mean, maybe I just don’t know how to start a school year. Maybe no matter how hard I try I can’t get my shit together right in the beginning. 

I read all this great stuff written by apparently calm people who seem to have answers to some of the dilemmas I face. But I wonder, if they had entered my classroom today what would they have done? If they walked in when one student was running away from adults,e moving quickly around the room teasing another student by saying “You suck dick at home” over and over. The student being bullied was visibly nearing an explosion. 

Chairs were lifted (and most often grabbed before being thrown). Pushing, hitting, kicking, spitting…all happened. My calm voice didn’t work my loud voice didn’t work. I had a picture schedule up but we didn’t even have a chance to look at it. What would the authors of these books do faced with the reality of these kids. I don’t doubt they’d do something and probably teach me something but just reading about it isn’t all I need. I need to see success. I need to work with someone who can model how a classroom like mine runs. 

And then at the end of the day only my 1st graders and one 2nd grader were in the room and for a little I was the only adult. One student shared her new doctor kit. I was the patient. My temperature was high. I needed lots of shots. My ears looked good. My heart (which one doctor found in my shoulder) was fine. I was told I shouldn’t take medicine because I would die but rest was ok.

And for that beautiful moment they were kids and we had fun.