My Guest Post Shared 4,500 Times! – 15 Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years as a Special Education Teacher

When I was in middle school I decided to be a special education teacher, and I never let go of that dream. Fifteen years ago I took the first step into my own classroom.

Since then I’ve learned an infinite number of lessons. You don’t have infinite time though, so I boiled them down to the fifteen most important things you should know as a special education teacher. These tips will help you survive and thrive! Click here to read them on Think Inclusive where I guest posted. It must be a worthwhile read because it’s been shared over 4,500 times!

@misssgtpickels made this beautiful infographic based on what I wrote. I was completely honored to see the time and effort she put in. I wish I had thought of it!


Not familiar with Think Inclusive? Their motto is “Tomorrow is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion”. Their site is packed with easy-to-read, thought provoking information and inclusive resources.

Have more tips for special education teachers? Leave a comment here or at the bottom of my Think Inclusive post.

Have a question about being a special educator? Drop me a note by filling out the Contact Me form below. I promise to get back to you ASAP.

 

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Teacher-blogging: Getting Started Week 3

Life long learning Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/

Week 3 – Find tips, tricks, resources, and classroom connections throughout my day-to-day journey in Blogging 101

Day 11 – Make a Prompt Personal (a constructivist approach)

I love the idea of personalizing The Daily Prompt. When I’m new at something, it’s comforting to be given suggestions and structure.

A fellow teacher once told me that when we create classrooms without structure, it’s like asking kids to walk across a bridge with no railings. This got me thinking about the constructivist approach to learning (Christopher Lister explains constructivism). Sometimes teachers think constructivism means students do everything on their own, without boundaries. I would interpret it differently. I believe constructivism is more successful when we support students by providing a structure within which they can have an experience. Thanks to Blogging 101 I’ve had a few railings to lean on as I construct my understanding of blogging.

Find my Daily Prompt response about secret ingredients here.

Have a thought on constructivisim? Leave a comment below.

Day 12 – Increase Your Commenting  With Confidence (letting go of being shy)

For this assignment, we found others who personalized the same prompt, read six, and commented on two. I used to be afraid of commenting on blogs. What would the world think of my opinions?!

I can definitely relate to students in the classroom who are afraid to share their thinking. It’s exciting that our new standards require us to teach students to effectively communicate with each other. I applaud this move toward making education a collaborative endeavor. Commenting through Blogging 101 has helped me shed my own shyness.

Find out what I was brave enough to share here and here.

Willing to share your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

Day 13 – Try Another Blogging Event (taking the easy route)

This assignment had me stumped. So much to choose from and so little time. So I’ve decided to take the easy route and go for Blogging 201 in July.

Sometimes the most important thing we can provide to students is letting them know what’s next. Doing so creates a safe and predictable (but not boring!) environment. For me, knowing Blogging 201 is coming provides some comfort along this blogging adventure.

Have a blogging event to share about? Leave a comment below.

Day 14 – Extend Your Brand (need advice – read THIS)

This was my most productive assignment of the week. Talk about constructing learning!

First, I re-created my Facebook page as a web page (instead of business). Save yourself some time by finding out how here. I’d been trying to figure this out for weeks and Blogging 101 got me going in minutes – whew! Then I created a custom header, custom image widgets, and a custom blavatar using PicMonkey. A word to the wise, write down your steps, write down your steps, write down your steps when you use PicMonkey. There is a tremendous amount you can do but once you save your image you cannot retrace your steps. So if you want to recreate something, like custom image widgets that match your header and blavatar, keep track of what you’re doing. Scroll up to see my take on Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube widgets in the sidebar. All were made with PicMonkey.

Going through this process was as gratifying as it was time-consuming. I could practically feel my neurons firing. At the same time I was aware of the hours I was poring into this project. I’m reminded of the importance of productive struggle, and the time it takes,  in the classroom. If we want students to  internalize their learning they need time to experiment, time to construct their own understanding, and time to engage in productive struggle and problems solving. I know first hand because this assignment gave me all three!

Possess tips and tricks for personalizing your work? Leave a comment below?

Day 15 – Create a New Posting Feature

I’m torn on this one. As I mentioned at the top, I appreciate a little support and structure when I try something new. So I’m considering two “challenges” for my new posting feature. One is the Slice of Life Story Challenge and the other is WordPress’ Daily Prompt. I’m intimidated by both, but for different reasons. Slice of Life is extremely open-ended, where as Daily Prompt can be a bit specific. Either way, they can both feel intimidating.

For students, the same can come up. One kind of writing prompt can be too narrow, and another too broad. Therefor it’s important for students to have choice, especially when trying to just get ideas on the table. This is one of the strengths of keeping a writer’s notebook to gather seed ideas.

Do you have a posting feature that works well on your blog? Leave a comment below.

It’s been a HUGE in terms of blogging pushing my thinking around students. This experience helps me remain a life-long learner and I’m having a ton of fun doing it!

What helps you stay fresh as a teacher/learner? Leave a comment below.

Teacher-blogging: Getting Started Week 2

I am a writer

Week 2 – Tips, resources, and classroom connections

Week one flew by! When real learning is happening it’s enthralling, and time spins away. Last week felt the same. This week I am able to say, “I am a blog writer”. If your considering blogging, take note of how quickly you can learn!

Day 6 – Make an “irresistible” About Page

This was a challenge. However, About Page 101: Making Them Care is an incredible resource. If your like me, struggling, to write about yourself, use the tip of allowing a finite amount of time on a specific topic. We use quick-writes with students, why not use them with ourselves?

Day 7 – Keep Personalizing

Playing with visuals is how we personalize things. For students, this can be a writer’s notebook. For us, it’s our teacher-blog. Today I personalized by picking my theme. To do so, I had to think about  who I am, who I want to connect with, and how my theme communicates that. When you pick a theme, think about the emotional connection you hope to evoke. More than anything this will personalize your blog.

Day 8 – Be a Good Neighbor

Time for checking out others (read below for four powerful blogs). Think of this as a gallery walk. In the classroom, before you send students off to critique each other, you lay some ground rules. It’s the same in the blogoshpere. Read these eight norms (from @kristastevens, WordPress Blogging 101) for commenting on blogs and then get visiting!

  1. Try to avoid comments that simply say “Great post!” or “Thanks!” — make an effort to add to the discussion.
  2. Be specific about why you enjoyed the post.
  3. Ask a relevant question.
  4. Respectfully offer a counterpoint. (And because it can’t be overstated: respectfully.)
  5. Share a related experience.
  6. Be concise. If your comment ends up being more than two paragraphs, consider writing a post of your own and letting the blogger know they inspired it.
  7. Don’t leave a plug that simply links to your blog — your name links back to your blog anyway.
  8. Mind your manners. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it in their comment thread.

Here are the comments I left on four thought-provoking blogs

  • Book People Blog – A wonderful bookstore blog
  • Colorin Colorado – A blog sharing all things about students learning English as an additional language
  • School for Linguists Blog – A blog focused on linguistics, an important topic for those teaching students learning English as an additional language!
  • Pushing the Edge Blog – My favorite pick-me-up blog. Every time I go here I gain courage to try something new!

Day 9 – Get Inspired by the Neighbors

Sometimes you have to put it all out there. Unabashedly. I learned that while ago as a classroom teacher. If I share who I am, the kids have someone to connect with. If all I do is teach, it becomes a little robotic. Education isn’t about receiving information, it’s about internalizing an experience. And I am part of their experience. I put it out here for this post because I am inspired by the neighbors. Check out my day nine post I’m a Groupie (and You Should Be Too). It speaks for itself.

You should try this too. Find a blog you love, and turn it into a post about that blog. When I shared my post with the blogger I wrote it about, it made his day. You have the power to make someone’s day too!

Day 10 – Build a Better Blogroll

Epiphany! Yes, I finally read through most of the directions for building links and adding to the menu and creating a blogroll. You know what happened? I figured out how to do something I’ve been frustrated over the past two weeks – get my Blogging 101 posts into one thread on my menu without making a page.

Have you ever noticed in the classroom what happens when students don’t read the directions? As a teacher does it make you frustrated? Are you able to empathize with why they don’t want to?

If your a WordPress used, and you need help, go straight to the support section or email the support team. Everything you need is there!

Teacher-blogging Ground Zero – Keep Calm and Blog

Keep Calm and Blog

Week 0 – What in the world is blogging all about?!

If you’re reading this, then like me you’re probably a life-long learner. It’s fun and exciting to learn new things. But it can be a little nerve wracking too.

You’ve come to the right place. When you read the Blogging 101 category, you’ll join the journey to become a teacher-blogger.

By seeing how I’m doing it, you’ll learn new ideas and might just be inspired to start your own site.

There are sure to be triumphs and trials while I climb out on this limb, and I hope you’ll climb with me!

More Resources

Check out Two Writing Teachers for more posts about blogging and blogging with students.

Beginning Summer With Beginner’s Mind

Flower for Begining Summer with Beginner's MindImage found at https://flic.kr/p/eFPrAZAs

As I end this school-year, like many of you, I am asking myself: Have I really done all that I set out to do. Have I touched lives in the way I wanted to? Taken the chances worth taking? And although I’m wondering IF I’ve accomplished my goals, I’m also taking a look at WHY I want to. What is it that drew me to this career in the first place? Why is it that I will come back in the fall?

Of course there are obvious things like being a positive part of change, loving learning,  and working with amazing people. But there are many jobs that could give me this. Why education? In delving into this question I’ve come to realize that what sets teaching apart is its natural connection to beginner’s mind.

What is it that drew me to this career in the first place?

Why is it that I will come back in the fall? 

Why education?

Beginner’s mind is about having the wonder of the “first-time”, even when we are no longer novices. It is the hunger of possibility, even when we have traveled a path many times. It is a way of living into opportunity, even if we think we have experienced it all. When you meet someone with beginner’s mind they are wide-eyed with discovery, even if they are an expert. They bubble with the freedom of learning, although they already know so much.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind.

Teaching is about creating the conditions of beginner’s mind. It’s how we add the wonder of learning to the drive for achievement. When we promote the safe space to be a novice, we promote beginner’s mind.  When we reframe mistakes as first steps, we shape beginner’s mind. And when we exude our own passion, we exemplify beginner’s mind.

At the end of the school year it is easy to find ourselves all out of beginner’s mind. Given the best of intentions, the course of the year can diminish our intrigue. The day-to-day routine can become mundane. After months of putting in so much effort, we may be just-plain-tired. In any of these situations it can be hard to see the world through inspired eyes.

Summer is the perfect opportunity to jump-start beginner’s mind. Here are three things to try to help you get back into your beginner’s mind:

  1. Do something new – Trying something new immediately puts us in a place of beginner’s mind because, realistically, we are beginners. Doing new things can be valuable whether big or small. You may hang-glide or just try a new coffee. You might call someone you have never hung out with, or just take a different route. Either way, notice the feeling of newness and discovery. What would it be like to bring this feeling to your routines during the school year?
  2. Start small Begin to think about your day-to-day experiences as if you were just having them for the first time. Remember the first flower you planted that bloomed? How about the first time you drove a car on your own? What about when you got a new pillow and had the best night of sleep ever? How about the first time you traveled somewhere new? Starting with small ways to view the world in a new light sets us on a larger path towards maintaining a mindset of inspiration. What would it be like to keep first-time excitement at the forefront of your mind all throughout the school year?
  3. Practice gratitude for the regular – Renewing our appreciation for things we have come to take for granted opens up space in our hearts and minds. When we take time to practice gratitude we build new mental habits, new neural-connections. Doing so gives us energy where we might otherwise feel drudgery (doing dishes again?). What would it be like to feel grateful for that one thing that happened again and again last year? Could gratitude give us power in those moments?

As you begin summer, I hope you’ll consider ways to conjure beginner’s mind. No matter if you are just starting your teaching career, or have long-standing experience, beginner’s mind can help keep your passion alive. To help myself, and get others thinking along these lines, I have posted this quote by my classroom door. Maybe you will too?

The person that inspired this post

Suzuki Roshi “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” 

The book that inspired this post

 Zen Mind Beginner's Mind