This afternoon I attended a training on The Nuts and Bolts of Transition Planning for Special Education students, that was sponsored by the Central Maine Inclusive Schools (CMIS).  It was a very good training and I got to catch up with a lot of educators from other schools who I have not seen in a couple of years.  So I considered it a very successful use of my time and I learned/reviewed some good strategies and guidelines about Transition Planning for a student’s IEP.  Below are my notes for this training:

Barriers to Transition Planning

  1. Time
  2. Interest by students or staff
  3. Need to be reality based upon the abilities, skills and interests of the student – not staff or parents.

What is the purpose for Transition Services

  • It is the right thing to do for the student, to prepare them for life after school
  • Improves Performance of students
  • Enhances Student Self-Advocacy Skills, teach the student to “speak-up” for themselves.
  • It is the law

Transitions – are life-long experiences, everyone goes through several transitions throughout their lifetime.  i.e.  Elementary –> Junior High –> High School –> Life after High School, etc.

We don’t want kids who have been closely or heavily supported in Special Education to suddenly find themselves out of school with no idea of what comes next, but at the same to have realistic expectations of what they actually are able to do. Don’t take the student’s dream away and encourage them (and the parents) as much as possible, think about ways that we can help a student achieve their their goals.  Expose students to the expectations and the actual work that will be required for them to achieve their dream with appropriate supports, but  we also have the responsibility to have them understand reality of their individual situation and if they find out that they can not or unable to achieve their original dream that we are there to provide other options for them.

We do need to be very careful that we do not limit students based upon our interpretations of their limitations and is one of the biggest issues that Special Education faces is the lack of adequate Transition Plans for our students.
Transition Assessments – Preplanning goal setting stuff

  • What is the student’s disability – the student needs to understand their disability.
  • Interests – What is the student interested in, there are several websites that can be utilized to learn the students interests.
  • Learning Styles  – What is the student’s learning style – again there are several websites for this
  • Completing the S.N.O.W. Strengths – Needs – Opportunities – Worries from the Maine Transition Network
  • Transition to School/Work – what does the student want to do after school. Career Interest Surveys.

When you have a student complete these surveys whether online or pen & paper you need to look at the language that is being used — if students don’t know the words, they will guess which basically invalidates the test.  If a typical accommodations is to read or scribe for the student these should be done for the student on these surveys that way you get a valid (or at least more valid) result.

The presenters strongly recommend using the Interests and Abilities survey first.  To get a basic understanding of what the student is interested in and what some of their abilities are.

Make sure that the students understand what transition means and that it is their transition plan (NOT YOUR’S), use their language.  Remember the Transition Planning Process is about the student, not about the parent or the teachers first and foremost.  Parents, teachers and others are part of the team process to help the student choose a realistic plan that fits their interests and abilities.  The bottom line is to ensure that the student participates in the pre-planning and transition planning process.

Ensure that the student receives their own invitation to the PET, they should not be listed as “student”, use the student’s name in the invitation.  If possible have the student ready to present their S.N.O.W. form at the PET and work on developing their Self-advocacy skills Student Participation in the IEP meeting.  Do role-play to prepare them for meetings, which they need for life beyond school, but if developed in the safe environment of school is easier for the student to gain the needed self-confidence to advocate for themselves in front of others.

If the student decides to attend the PET have them describe their interests & preferences, work on their self-advocacy skills.  Even if the student does not attend the meeting, the transition plan can include what the student has identified as their needs in the following areas:

  • Education/Training
  • Employment
  • Independent Living

There should be an aligned set of transition goals/objectives in the Student’s IEP these goals/objectives must have measurable and realistic outcomes for the individual student, not a set of pre-generated, generic goals/objectives.  In Maine the Learning Results have a Career Preparation that can be used to accomplish this and align it to State education standards.

Course of study for each year that they have completed to show actual courses completed and a plan to ensure that they will meet graduation requirements and pre-requisites for post-secondary education or training in the field they want to pursue.  If the student is planning to go to college this includes college preparatoryclasses with necessary supports.  This will document student progress and if the student changes their mind about what they want to pursue after graduation, then Special Education staff have to document the changes and ensure that the new transition plan is in place showing the student’s current plans and the roadmap that we need put together to help them achieve their goal.

Transition Services

A.  Related –
Services from outside agencies that can support transition for students…i.e. counseling outside of the school.

B.  Community
1.  School
2.  Residence – access resources in the community i.e. register car, drivers ed enrollment.

C.  Employment
1.  do they want to work while in high school, work study, summers, part-time
2.  What do they need for successful employment.

Show other employability skills that students do during school or during work study, but liability issues are always a concern.  Extra-curricular activities can be included.  Work programs can be used to increase student positive behaviors.  Time spent can be developed by the planning team.

D.  Independent Living

  • Finances
  • Medical Consumer, Doctors name, how to take prescriptions, how to contact them, fill out medical forms
  • Resources for safe residence:  knowing it is okay to go to the police or fire departments
  • Transportation:  In rural areas must have a drivers license.

Just a reminder that when assigning who is responsible, it can be the student, parent or other community organization, not just the school.  The school Special Education case manager is responsible to document whether who is responsible is completing their part of the plan, but it is not their responsibility to see that it happens if it is agreed to and assigned to another party.

The presenters reminded us to always remember that the Transition Plan is the Student’s Plan, not the staff or parent’s plan and as special educators you have to document discussions and meetings to show that you have had reality based discussions on the student’s knowledge, skills and abilities.  It is always best to have open and honest lines of communication with everyone involved.

There was a lot of discussion regarding State Vocational Rehabilitation supports.  The presenters stated that there is a misconception out there that you have to wait until a student reaches their Senior Year in High School or six months before their 18th birthday to apply.

Students or their parents can apply for Vocational Rehabilitation assistance upon completion of the student’s 10th grade year (parents can/should complete applications), if a student is “at risk” a they may apply maximum of 6 months prior to their 16th birthday.  Don’t wait to apply, do it as soon as possible because the waiting lists for these services is very long.

Some possible VocRehab services students can receive starting in Junior Year:

  • Drivers Education paid for
  • Job coaching
  • OJT – 12 Weeks of 20 hours per week. can negotiate 24 weeks of 10 hours per week.
  • Pay for tutoring – for vocationally related examinations
  • V/R cannot pay a student themselves, you have to help them come up with someone who will pay, and then V/R reimburses the employer.
  • V/R does not do Functional Vocational Assessments, but they do pay for those to be completed.

Who needs the assessment:

  • can they be independent,
  • can they work in an integrated work setting or are they going to be in a segregated work center.
  • Can they be independent with natural supports (just the people they work with),
  • do they need be in an integrated with minimal or maximum supports (job coach 50% of the time).

Special Education personnel need to document in the IEP (Transition Plan section) that a referral has been made to V/R and the date of the referral.

Anticipated Services is a way to have the student, their family and other involved people look at what services and supports the student will need in place to be successful after school.  This can be a place where you learn about supports that are in place that the school does not know about.  Also the team should review Independent Living, Transportation needs and post secondary school/training services that will be needed.

Providing transition services is really no different than teaching academics.  We have a legal and moral obligation prepare students for the next phase in their life by “passing the baton of education and self-advocacy to them with successfully.

Educators and schools need to look at transition services as any other academic class.

I have been on both sides of this fence as a parent and as a Special Education Teacher, I do not believe that Transition Services and Preparation are given enough credibility or time to be done correctly in most schools.  It is a change that is taking place, but taking place slowly.  Many of the things that were taught in the presentation today are the same issues that I was taught 3-4 years ago.

We need to move to the next phase…but with so many things in flux (economy, ESEA, standardized testing, college as the panacea, etc.), I don’t see a big change coming anytime soon, but the change is happening…albeit slowly.

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Yes, I know that teaching is work…damn hard work, but having justcome from a non-teaching job where I considered myself very organized and on top of what I did, to being a classroom teacher again, I can tell you there is a difference in what organization skills you use.  This is my third week back in the classroom and I still feel very unorganized and a little overwhelmed right now.  I have reached that point where I know how much I need to get done, but I just have to figure out how to do it and still make the classes interesting enough for many students who don’t want to be in class.
Teaching I have found, utilizes almost a completely different set of organizational skills than business or government organizational skills.

Business/Government organizational skills may be accomplished witheither an electronic or paper style planner with a tasks list,calendar, and address book.  Email can be either incorporated into the organizer or standalone dependent upon the system.  Organizers like:  Basecamp, Zoho, Outlook,Thunderbird, Zimbra or Google Apps are all examples of integrated electronic organizers. Franklin Covey, Daytimer, GTD  and other organizer books are examples of pen and paper organizers.  Organization is fairly straight forward and any of these organizers, software, applications or systems  can be used effectively in most business or government scenarios, it depends on your personal preferences and the IT powers that be at where you work.

In my opinion and experience none of these type organizers work well for teachers in the classroom, they are useable, but not ideal.  The needs of a teacher are much different than simply putting a schedule and task list together, listing tasks and making it work.  A teacher has to have room to plan their lessons (from 3 to 7 everyday – dependent upon their schedule), any appointments for the day, tasks to be accomplished in addition to what is in the lesson plan(s), notes, room for behavioral documentation, grades, communications with parents, new policies that are put in place, etc.  I am not saying that a teacher has more tasks than other professions, I am just saying that teachers have to organize their work differently and the typical work organizer or planner does not work for me as a teacher.

I have tried more than a few online or electronic organizers that state they are developed for teachers, but have not found one that meets my needs yet.  Also there is the issue if I am in a meeting and there is no internet connectivity – no organizer, so I have gone back to the”Master Teacher Plan Book” (no I am not a master teacher that is just the name of the plan book) that I used to purchase every year at Barnes& Noble (it is the only place I have found it), it is setup in away that I like and can use.  Even so, I take it apart and put it in my own notebook organizer to ensure that I have room for the other “stuff” that I have or do as a teacher.

I would eventually like to find an electronic teacher organizer that Icould put on a laptop as software…not an application, that meets my personal needs, but the 7 plus years of searching for one, it has been very elusive.

Does anyone have any ideas on an electronic organizer for teachers thatis useable by classroom teachers?  I would welcome any recommendations.

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This is an ongoing reflection on my re-entry into teaching and the differences between my present position in public education and my prior teaching incarnation where I was a Special Education Teacher at a small special purpose private school for behavioral issues up here in Maine.

At the private school we had a school-wide behavior system and thestudents had very narrow boundaries that were enforced throughout theschool and campus.  In the public school there are fewer behavioral expectations and a much wider set of boundaries.  That is the way it should be, but I find myself at times returning to my previous training when students begin to “act up” in the classroom.  It is a function of how I was trained to manage behaviors and the number of years that I was involved in behavior management.

Today, I found myself automatically going into my rote behavioral response to a student’s behavior: Say the student’s name (wait for them to give me eye contact), give a praise or empathy statement, describe the behavior and consequate the behavior.  Everything was clicking right along until I got to the consequence for the behavior part and then I just didn’t know what the consequence was going to be…I faked it and muddled through and the student didn’t know the difference and did what I asked (move to adifferent seat).  The hard thing for me is I still do not have the appropriate public school consequence for a student’s behavior in my repertoire yet.

Now I don’t really think that using this rote response on my part, is a bad thing, because some of thebehaviors are similar to the one’s I encountered at my previous school, just not as high end.  I have  found that I don’t get flustered by thebehaviors that I have seen since my return to the classroom, even after having been out of the field for over 15 months.  That was good to know and helped with my confidence level, but I still have to wrap my head around the differences between the public school’s behavior management and a school-wide behavior program.

I am learning that the students are reacting to many of the same things that the students at my previous school reacted to:

  • Confidence:  Show confidence that you know what you are doing and that what you are doing is is of benefit to them.
  • Respect: Treating the students with respect – no sarcasm, put-downs or using something as simple as saying sir or ma’am, which they find kind of funny and which has not subverted my authority in the classroom,because I do it in more than just negative situations (its that military training kicking in).  They have come to think of it as part of how I speak to them.
  • Boundaries:  Establish appropriate student-teacher boundaries.  I don’t believe that a teacher is astudent’s friend and made that very clear during my first week.  I believe that the student’s need to know that I am an adult that cares about them, but that I am an adult and not their friend at this time in their life.
  • Expectations:  Ensure that the students understand what the classroom rules and expectations are.  This might mean extra time with a specific student or two to ensure that they know what you expect.
  • Praise:  This has to be real and specific not just a generic statement, otherwise it is just words.
  • Identifying the behavior: Identify, describing and stating that you do not accept the behavior. Sometimes just this allows the student to realize what they are doing and gives them the opportunity to self-correct or stop what they are doing.
  • Humor:  it shows the human side and can defuse a bad situation if done right, but can make a situation explode if the student does not “get” or understand your attempt at humor.  In a touchy situation – better to leave this tool in the box, unless youreally, really know the student and the situation.
  • Spacing: putting myself in a position either closer to the students, betweenstudents or moving away if I am the cause of the tension – I am not in an “in-your-face” behavior modification program so moving away is sometimes the best option, if I am perceived to be part of the issue at hand.  Also changing student seating arrangement quickly to defuse situations.
  • Ignoring:  not giving the student attention for minor stuff when they are “performing” for others or acting negatively to get attention.  This is the most difficult one for me, because my training is to address the behavior and consequate the negative or positive behavior immediately and provide feedback to the student.  Interestingly enough it has worked very well for one of my students the past couple of days.
  • Ask the student to leave the room: I have worked out the arrangement with our behavior resource room teacher to accept a student for a short time to work through their issue and then come back to the class when they are ready.  I had to use this for the first time today, seemed to work fairly well…this time, just one that I don’t want to have to rely on very much.
  • Final Option: Have the student go to the office or have the office come to the room if the student is not responding to other options.  If I have to use this option it probably means that I made a mistake somewhere along theway and that I need to review how I am working with that student to see how or what I can do differently to keep the student in the classroom and a participant in the class.

There are several other strategies that I would employ in between or in addition to these, but these are the main options that could be used to help students improve their classroom presence and allow their peers the opportunity to learn.  As one student told me at my previous school “Mr. Shaw it is better to be bad, than look stupid to my friends”. What that student said has stuck with me ever since.  I have to beaware of what is causing the student to feel that they have to use those behaviors in my classroom and not put student’s in a position where they think they might look stupid.

Looking back at my first two weeks, I believe that my previous experiences at the private school will serve me well in public school.  I just have to remember the boundaries are a lot broader, but that courtesy and acceptable social behavior is the same pretty much where ever I am (school, an office or the mall).  The individual student makes many of the choices regarding their behaviors to a certain point, but sometimesit is how we react to their behaviors that either escalate or de-escalate situations…I would definitely prefer the de-escalation.

So here is to continuing to learn more and more about behavior management in the public school setting.

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I am lucky that all the students in my class have laptops and can create much of their work on the computer.  I teach three special education English classes and was trying to figure out a way teach editing to my students that would not be “booooorrrrrrriiiiinnnnnnngggggg.
Yesterday we were editing a sample of the Letter of Introduction assignment on the whiteboard and this morning I got thinking about possibly doing this for all the students this morning.  All but one of the students created their Letter of Introduction on their laptops, so I decided that I would ask for volunteers to read and the have the class participate in editing their document.

I couldn’t believe the effect that it had on all three classes, I did a little pre-teaching on how to be positive and not attempt to “put down” anyone’s work, let’s just make it better for each.  Initially, each class was a little hesitant to put their work up on the board, but as soon as one person volunteered and then “we” edited their work, others wanted the help of the class to improve their work.

I only had one student act out while editing on the whiteboard and I simply unplugged the projector and asked him to re-take his seat.  The student thought about it for a minute and then did what I asked – I got lucky :).
It was a collaborative effort and some didn’t mind showing their work on the screen, but didn’t want to read it out loud and offered me a different solution…use the text to speech function of the Mac read their work out loud.

I hadn’t thought of doing this and when the first student suggested it, I had to think about it for a minute before I said yes.  In my opinion it showed that the student was thinking outside the box and also showed the other students another tool to use in editing their own papers.  I had to laugh when the “reader” butchered a couple of papers, but the kids understood the mistakes better. I wonder if they will use this new to them tool to improve their work??? Time will tell.

I think that the students learned more about editing and writing mechanics in those short classes than they have in a long time.  It showed them mistakes that they were all making and that they were all having a hard time with writing mechanics.  Instead of correcting each draft individually without anyone else seeing their paper they were given the opportunity to see what others are doing.

It is a strategy that I plan to use again, I think it was a lot more effective than many of the “editing” plans out there or things that I have done in the past and I did it almost by accident.  The students (I think) actually enjoyed this in class work session and I hope that they can retain some of what we learned today.

I know that this is Web1.0, but in this case I have to work in stages toward my goal for these classes.  My goal is to get my students ready for blogging during the 3rd and 4th quarters.  We will see if they progress to this point.
Have you used something like this in your class…how did it work for you?

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I have been using Google docs exclusively this weekend in an effort to figure out how it works.  It does have its own way of doing things and is different than M/S Word 2007 or 2003.  Actually, I think that if you haven’t used some of the other word processors it would be much easier to use Gdocs.  Just about all the other W/P’s are similar in many respects (except for Word’s 2007 Ribbon).

I think though that I have had a break-thru as far wrapping my head around Gdocs.  I simply had to “just use it” to figure it out.  Some things that I did learn was that:

  1. When you embed a document into a blog, if you make changes it changes within the blog too.  I really like this feature – probably old news to most users, but something I didn’t know.  I really liked that I didn’t have to go back and change the Presentation that I embedded into my Classroom Expectations Slideshow, which using my previous process I would have had to which leads to extra work and the possibility of not having an exact duplicate.
  2. I had to get used to the ideas of printing to PDF, then printing from my PDF software.  At first I didn’t like this, it was very clunky.  But as the day went on I came to get used to it more and more.  It does make me look at the copy before printing and see mistakes before printing – which should save some paper.
  3. If you want to create a document with lots of boxes (i.e. table), you may be better off using the Spreadsheet instead of the document function.  I created some rubrics and other weekly status forms and they didn’t look right in docs when it came to printing, but when I re-did them in  the Spreadsheet they looked great.  I do miss the ability to copy from a table to a spreadsheet and have it render properly (Gdocs just copied everything to column A).Writing Rubric or Weekly Planner.
  4. But it still is a pain to have to convert so many of my forms over to Spreadsheet, there must be an easier way.
  5. Unfortunately Gdocs does not render 100% on Word to doc conversion that enables me to use it for forms that I have created in Word or that others have created.  I will be interested to see how the rendering of Word docs, etc. will improve as we get closer to Microsoft coming to the cloud with their Office 2010?

After using it exclusively this weekend I can see that Gdocs will do everything that I need for the classroom.  If I had to use only Gdocs in the office environment, I don’t know how well it would do?  It still has a lot of development left in order to catch up to Desk Based Options such as Word or Open Office, but for what I am looking for it to do, it does what I want.

I want to see how it works tomorrow when I don’t have internet with my HP (to start the day), it will be the true test.  Then I have to get to the interesting part…sharing and setting things up with my students, which will be a different set of opportunities.

FTC Disclaimer:  I did not receive any compensation or consideration of any kind for completing this review.  It was an unsolicited review of an applications that I have started using more.

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Every year Jane Hart does a 100 Top Tools for Learning survey.  I have read the survey results every year since 2007 and have found some great tools that others are using that I have tried or used.  I have at the bottom of this post included my 2008 list, so that you can see the changes since I last participated in this survey.

This year some things have changed, but I am back to teaching as a Special Education and English Language Arts teacher in a resource room after a 15 month sojourn in State Government.  Below is my top ten list of the applications and software that I am using OR will be using.  In Maine the teachers are issued a MacBook and I have attempted to use things that are available on both or Operating System Independent when possible.

1.  Productivity Suite:  MICROSOFT OFFICE – Still the standard by which other productivity suites are judged.  It is what is used by industry and in government.  If you work outside of education you need to be proficient in its use.  Some don’t like the Ribbon, but I found after I got used to it that it was better than the menu bars.  I can’t wait to see the improvements in Office 2010 which will make it less O/S dependent with its cloud ability.

2.  Browser:  Firefox – Still a little too buggy for my tastes but between the choice of Safari or Firefox there was no choice.  I can’t download extra software onto my issued Mac, so I can’t use Opera on it, which would be my browser of choice.  In order to keep the laptops someone similar I chose to have Firefox.  I do really like the number of add-ons, but sometimes I think there is too much choice and it can affect Firefox’s performance and stability.  Not too bad for my second choice, but I really wish they would get the stability issues fixed.

3.  Blog:  Blogger – I have tried just about all of the other blog hosting software and I keep coming back to Blogger.  It does what I want most of the time and I don’t have to learn PHP or do the backend stuff like I did in my self-hosted WordPress blog.

4.  PDF:  Nitro PDF Professional – I actually paid for this one, I like its ability to edit PDF for a reasonable price and I do like the ribbon better than menu bars.

5.  Blogwriter:  Scribefire – Due to the limitations of Microsoft’s Live Writer only being available on my Windows laptop and how many problems I have had with it lately, I have begun migrating to Scribefire which has improved considerably over the past year, so that I can have continuity between operating systems.  The one thing that I would really to seee in Scribefire is for it to become useable on more than just Firefox, maybe an independent WebApp?  Now I just have to remember to click on that orange Scribefire button to use it.

6.  RSS Feed Reader:  Google Reader it does everything I ask of it and is simple to use.

7.  Start Page:  iGoogle – simple and easy to use and is cross browser and O/S.  I have tried many others, but keep coming back to iGoogle, it just works for me.

8.  Google Apps – Even though I used M/S Office almost exclusively for the past 15 months, when I was not in education, in its present form it is not education friendly.  Google apps has attempted to step in and be that cross O/S or browser application that can be used any where, at any time.  You don’t have to copy, email documents to yourself or put them on a pen drive, you just login to your account and there are your documents, that plus the ability to share documents and read PDFs are a huge benefit in education and elsewhere — less paper wasted.  I look forward to seeing what improvements they come out with now that M/S Office will have a cloud component.

9.  Skype – I used it a lot before I left education and since I have returned have used it to communicate with others a few times.  I can see it becoming more important as I get back into the swing of Web2.0 again.  Elluminate has honorable mention, it seems as though every online meeting is held in Elluminate for good reason – it is user friendly and they work with educators.

10  Google Search – Just “Google it” has become a verb in our vocabulary, I don’t think I need to say much else, except that it should have been much higher on the list.  I simply forgot about it, I guess I just take for granted that it is here to use and is one of the most used applications in my tool box.

Those are my top 10 – a bit less microcentric than last time, it seems as though I have moved toward becoming a Googler?  It will be interesting to see how the competition between Microsoft and Google plays out over the next year and how it affects us – the users.  I didn’t have a Notebook or Mind mapping application on there this year, I haven’t really had the need to utilize them like I did in the past.  Maybe they will reclaim their prominence as I get back into the swing of things again.

Below is my top 10 list from 2008, just for comparison purposes.
TOP 10 TOOLS 2008

  1. Microsoft One Note 2007 – Simply an amazing program that I have only been using since January and wish that I had been using for the last 5 years.  I am reducing my paper use tremendously .
  2. Firefox – Simple to use, very customizable and free
  3. Inspiration – Mind mapping software
  4. Microsoft Word 2007 – Still the standard and much improved with the new ribbon interface
  5. Microsoft Outlook 2007 – Improved many of the bugs from 2003 and it is required at work
  6. Zoho Office – Lots of applications and I can access stuff from anywhere and any computer
  7. Windows Live Writer – Love how I can put my blog together in a WYSIWYG style, I use it to write all of my blogs.
  8. Google Reader – Use it everyday to look at my feeds
  9. Igoogle – My internet start page, and what most of my students use as their start page
  10. Adobe Reader – There might be others that leave a smaller footprint or are quicker, but it still the standard

As you can see I am still pretty Microsoft centric, I have tried many of the online versions i.e. Slideshare, Google: Docs, Notebook , Flickr, Open Office, Buzzword, Foxit etc. and have decided to use what works best for me, regardless of who produces it and right now Microsoft consistently meets my needs better than others out there.

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imageEven though there has been a lot going in my personal life this week, it was also my first week back in the classroom (I won’t call it teaching yet).  Between the NECAP testing and everything else, I was lucky the assistant Teacher in my room had everything planned and did most of the teaching the whole week.  This gave me the unheard of opportunity to actually observe most of the students in action, get to know my way around the building (where the bathrooms, library, copiers and custodians are) and meet the IT staff.  All of which were very important to getting me acclimated and ready for next week.

Some of the things I observed about my future classroom were:

  1. The present seating arrangement was conducive to interruptions and distractions.
  2. The classroom does not have a flow to it, it was a bit scattered
  3. The students were showing low levels of respect for each other and the adults in the room.
  4. There was a lack of documentation of student behavior in the classroom
  5. The majority of my students are very hyper-active males.
  6. That all students have been provided Macs and that they are being under-utilized
  7. That even the student(s) that misbehave the most are redirectable, most of the time.

I do have one quick story that I found very amusing this week.  I went to gym in order to get a student who had left everything at the testing room.  While there I asked to shoot a basket.  They passed me the ball and I shot it standing just beyond the 3 point line about 10 feet from the left-hand baseline.  It actually went in…I somehow banked it off the backboard from where I was standing????  The gym teacher who is the varsity boy’s basketball coach just shook his head.  The boys all hooted and hollered and when they got back to class were still talking about it.  So I had my moment of glory…(I probably shouldn’t ever go back to the gym) I know it was an absolute luck shot and I couldn’t sink another one in 100 tries (off the backboard from where I was standing).  But is sure was fun to listen to kids talk about the old guy making that shot.

So what will I do about 1-7 next week?

1.  Change the seating so that those who like to entertain their peers are in the back of the room or at least have less of a spotlight.  Currently the setup is 3 large curved tables are in a placed in a circle and everyone can quickly see what the others are doing.  This setup plays right into the hands of the entertainers or disrupters.  Therefore, when the students come in Monday the tables will be in 3 rows facing the white board.

Now I have to decide if I want to use a lottery system for the students to choose their assigned seat or if I want my assistant teacher to assign them.  I am leaning towards having a lottery system initially and then if that seating arrangement doesn’t work, I will in consultation with my assistant teacher assign seating.

2.  Setup a classroom schedule of instruction that will look a bit like this

  • Get settled in
  • Check-in
  • Maine Lesson
  • Silent Sustained Reading
  • Oral/written Reflection on day’s Reading
  • Reflection on class individual/class behaviors

I am hoping that getting a class routine in place will help the students know what to expect instead of always wondering what’s coming next.

3 & 7.  The classroom is chaotic partly/mostly due to lack of respect the students are showing for each other and the teachers in the room.  This lack of respect is not a new problem or particular only to this generation of children…I remember being in7th grade and my class acting so horribly that we went through 3 teachers that year and being proud of being such jerks, so this lack of respect is not something that is new, as some would have us all believe it has been going on for a long time, just not discussed in the 24/7 news we have today.

Now what to do about it,

  • The first thing that I am going to do is teach a quick unit about what respect is and what my expectations are regarding respect.
  • Secondly, ensure that all the adults who come in my room and myself follow the same thing and show and model respect back to the students (as much as I can anyways).
  • Third role model respect for others beyond the classroom.
  • Fourth when someone is being disrespectful, address it as a behavior (which it usually is), provide some feedback and look for those “teachable” moments when a student doesn’t realize they are being disrespectful. I am still learning the school’s behavior code and the student’s motivations, so I will have to come back and figure out what appropriate consequences for poor choices on the student’s part will be.

It doesn’t sound very aggressive or earth shattering, but I believe that the key to this strategy will be consistency on the part of the assistant teachers and myself over the course of the school year.

The other part to this effort will be establishing positive relationships with the students and being a good male role model for some of the student’s who are lacking this.  Actually I believe that establishing the personal relationships will go a lot further than any teaching plan or anything else I do.

This is my two-pronged approach to helping my students cope in the real world where disrespecting others can have very real consequences.

4.  Another part of the equation is being able to document the student’s behavior.  I plan to use a classroom behavior rubric that I have used successfully in the past – modifying it to fit these classes.  Something that I like to do a little differently is to have the student fill one out and the teachers fill them out and then compare the two.  This can lead to some good discussion and better understanding on both of our parts on how the class went and things that we can do differently to improve the classroom.  Please notice that I said we, not just the students.

5.  Two of my classes have a large majority of males in the classroom and one is all male.  In some regards this is easier for me because they are only showing off for each other, not the girls in the class.  It also means that the guys are still attempting to establish the male hierarchy in the class.  This will sort itself out and change slightly through the year, we just have have to keep a lid on things while they are doing the sorting and keep everyone safe.

I believe that all my students will do better with a more structured and project based approach to learning English Language Arts than the old read, lecture it, write it and test it.  I want to use a more multi-modal approach.  But first have to get my feet back under me and also have to get the behaviors more in control.  But the opportunities that are present in #6 are exciting to me.

6.  1:1 Laptop — all the students have laptops, this is an opportunity to really do some cool things with blogging, Google or ZohoAnimoto and all the other tools out there that I may or may not be able to use in the classroom.  I have to find out more about the IT department and what is blocked and what is not and what administrations expectations of the use of technology are.  But I really believe that this is one place that I can open up the students to using their laptop to be more than a glorified pen and paper.  Hopefully, the geek in me will be a positive influence on others.

7.  One of the most important piece to the puzzle is getting the student’s parent to know me and understand who and what I am attempting to do.  This is also the thing I had the least experience with at my last school, there were not very many involved parents.  I will simply go back to what my expectations were of my daughter’s special education teacher’s:  introduce myself by sending out a letter with my email and phone number, call to let them know the good things – not just calling when something is wrong, being honest with them and treating them as the partners they are in the education of their kids. A positive relationship with the parents will go a long way in achieving positive things for my students.   Basically establishing and maintaining open lines of communication.
This is my initial reaction to what I need to do in my classroom on starting on Tuesday. I will not accomplish many of these goals overnight, but the quick hitters I will do right off the bat.  The others are going to be ongoing throughout the school year.

I am excited that I am back in the classroom and have the opportunity to go back to doing something that I love to do.  There are going to be days I wonder why I ever did this but you know something – I know today why I did it after being back in the classroom – because I am a teacher.

So here is to my classes first day of school with me next Tuesday as their teacher.



This was a very difficult week for my family and myself, due to my mother’s passing.  I wanted to take this time to say thank you to all of you who extended your condolences and kindness during this time of grief for us.
Having something like this happen during your first week on a new job and attempting to teach kids has been a bit nerve wracking and I needed today to sort things out a bit, so that I will be there for the students who have been entrusted to my care.

I am very lucky to work where everyone is willing to support even its newest staff member during tough times.  Those in leadership and my colleagues were all considerate and understanding, if I was a bit off my stride at times during the week.  A small touch, but one that meant a lot to me was when yesterday afternoon one other other teachers gave me a card just before I left, which was signed by many of the teachers, even though most of them barely know my name.

It is time to move on, while I am sure that I will have times where I miss my mother a lot, it was her time to go.  She made her choices regarding her medical care and how she would live and die.  Mom did not want to go overboard when grieving for her, she wanted us to go out and live our lives, so that is what I plan to do.  I do not want to dishonor her memory by being selfish and going into a funk where I am not being of any use to others or myself.

I plan to make my first year back to teaching one that honors her memory and use her example of toughness and giving to others, to help me through the tough spots that will occur this year as a teacher.
Taken from

We may be more English on Mom’s side than Irish, but I have always felt a closeness to their words and attitudes than I have other cultures, so it is fitting to use their words now.  They say my thoughts with words better than I ever could.


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My mother Muriel Ann (Elston) Shaw died this afternoon.
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She loved Christmas, so I thought it was right to show a picture of her at Christmas.

Thank you to all that have helped us through this difficult time for my family and myself.

I do remember the most important thing that you have taught me – stand up for what you believe in.

Good night Mom may you rest well and in peace.

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Fireworks #1

Image by Camera Slayer via Flickr

In case anyone hasn’t heard today was my first day back to teaching!!!!  Can’t guess that I am excited by being back in the classroom – can you.  Despite the other things going on in my personal life, this is the direction that I want my career to take and is a very positive course for me.  I know that not every day will be thrillingly charming as this one was, but it felt right.  This is where I need to be now.

Below is what my section of theclassroom looks like after doing a bit of re-arranging.  I don’t like the idea of it being so much a cube with a small entrance.  But at the same time with the students I will be teaching, they need to know that some areas of the room are not their’s and that they shouldn’t be in there. By making it obvious there are boundaries to where they belong and where they don’t need to be is a classroom management tool that I have used effectively in the past.  Besides it is not like I will be behind the desk very often.

That is not how I teach, I have to be moving around the room, talking and looking at what the students are actually doing, not what they think I am seeing.
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I am lucky that the EdTech that is assigned to my room is fantastic!  She has over 26 years of experience and we hit it off right away.  She knows the kids and the school, so I will learn a lot from her and will be her understudy until I get my legs back under me.
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I think that I still have my eye for seeing behaviors (saw quite a few that I recognized) and starting tomorrow will begin addressing them.

It is easier to start out being that “mean, rotten and nasty” teacher (not really) but that is what I tell everyone and then lighten up later.  Then it is to loose control by trying to be their friend and then trying to get the classroom back afterwards.  I have seen the results of the other way and want nothing to do with it.

I believe that a teacher needs to establish fairly rigid teacher-student boundaries at the start (using common sense and differentiating on the needs of the class) and then loosen up when trust is established both ways.  I don’t want my new students to know that I am actually a push-over.

The biggest question I have been asked by students, other teachers and former co-workers was “Why do you want to go back to teaching?”  I answered with a very short answer “Simple, because I am a teacher.”

The non-teacher’s didn’t understand – do you?

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