I did not grow up with technology. We had a rotary dial telephone, three channels on the television, one each for the networks ABC, CBS and NBC, and a manual typewriter that absolutely fascinated me. I remember being so thrilled to get my cream-colored portable transistor radio that would only pick up AM radio stations by dialing them in, my all-time favorite being AM 540, WDAK. When I received a Polaroid Instamatic camera in which pictures would miraculously develop right before my eyes, it was a momentous occasion!
Being a teacher and taking advantage of professional learning opportunities has allowed me the luxury of immersing myself into the world of technology. Not being a pioneer in this area by any stretch of the imagination, the journey has been uncomfortable at times and worthy of celebration at others. Still, there are people willing and patient enough to teach me these new ways which have become so valuable to me.
Today, when I come in contact with non-English speaking people, it is not difficult for me to understand their struggle. Although I have not physically moved to another country or culture, there are times when I look back to my childhood in which I feel that I now exist in a whole new world. If someone could somehow pluck that 10-year-old girl that I was from that day and thrust her forward to today's world, I believe it would be fairly safe to say that she would feel like a complete alien. Taking it another step, pluck that 14-year-old girl and bring her to the world of today (I teach 8th grade), nothing would appear familiar. The common slang would be like another language. References made would have no meaning since that girl would not have experienced them. The multiple technological devices would overload my three-channel, AM-radio-self. The subject matter, please! We teach algebra in the 8th grade, not what I was doing back then. Needless to say, my straight A confidence would definitely take a dive, since my background would not have prepared me for such. That self-motivated yet introverted girl's confidence would most certainly be at risk if not crushed altogether!
I do enjoy reminiscing about my childhood and those simpler times I failed to fully appreciate. However, it serves to remind me to be ever aware that the many and varied people in which I interact also have a unique background. Not everyone is in the same position in this race we call Human. That being said, I feel it is my responsibility to welcome each individual into my world as if each one is on a journey, because we are all traveling through time as it marches on.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'" Matthew 25: 35-36, NIV of The Holy Bible
You know, for some chronological reason or whatever, as soon as I go back to school for the new school year, things in my personal life completely fall apart! All of that summer organizing and preparation just seem to fly away like steam over a boiling pot of water. If nothing else comes of this time I know that I can always, always count on the consistency of utter turmoil showing up.
I started school with the students today! They are a great bunch of young 8th grade teens, beginning the last year of middle school. Next year, they will be high school freshmen, and oh what a joy that will be. Our new rule this year is to keep all cell phones on silent and out of site during class and during class changes. Cell phones are allowed during lunch in the cafeteria and outside once school has ended. In modeling this new rule, I, too did not have my cell phone on me. Not that it would have made a big deal, since I did not have any missed calls or messages (not counting social media alerts and stuff).
At the end of what was a great first day, I got into my car to make my hour-long commute home. Having forgotten to text that I was leaving (a requirement made by my husband, since I haven't always gotten to my destination safely in the past...stories for another time), I called him, hands-free, of course. When he answered, I immediately knew something was amiss. He gingerly informed me that he was not at home, yet he was not at work or going home. He had been called to the house at about 10 this morning by our caretaker, who stays with my mother-in-law while we are at work. Needless to say, this was not going to be a great conversation.
My husband had been at the emergency room all day after dialing 911 this morning for his mother, who would not speak and appeared to be having difficulty swallowing. I would not be going home after my first day of school with the students, I was now headed to the ER. Apparently it was a particularly busy day for a Monday at the hospital, because we were informed shortly after I arrived that they would be admitting Maw. She had an infection and was taking antibiotics intravenously, so she would remain in the hospital until she was back to normal. Whew! That turned out better than I was imagining. It was sometime after midnight when she was finally taken to a room. We stayed long enough to make sure she was comfortable, then headed home. My 4:30 am alarm would be in just a couple of hours, making day two with the kids sure to be a long one.
This post did not make it in on the Monday for which it is dated, since I was experiencing some life moments not expected. My husband wound up not working all of this week. By Wednesday, he had met with doctors, nurses, a case manager and hospice. Maw was released on that same day and transported home to her new hospital bed, and we felt ignorant about what to do next. We did know that we would have to hire additional help, and pay out-of-pocket since we are considered the primary care-givers. For those of you yet to face aging-in-place in the home, those people that allow us to work also cost us most of our paychecks. I am not complaining, just trying to educate those of you that may not know...like us.
We are in the midst of rearranging our budget, and I will update on this blog of ways that we are quicky learning to cut corners. It can be done. The good news is that she can speak and can swallow; however, she is still weak and things, we are told, will probably never be the same and will certainly in time decline from current conditions. We are aware that life has a beginning and an end, and we are now aware that, for caretakers of the young and old, the picture is not much different. Creamy foods, diaper changes and sleepless nights are once again in the picture.
I guess what I am making of this week (beause it was so much more than Monday), is that change is inevitable, time marches on with or without us and to be thankful for every single day we can share with one another. It has made me more patient with my students, more understanding of rushed or even rude people in public, and absolutely thankful for being able to watch a great Braves game in the evening with my husband. My daily commute to and from work, listening to the JOY FM uplifts my spirit and allows me to feel the joy that only comes from my Savior.
"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV of The Holy Bible
Let's bet, if you are an exceptional education teacher (we used to call ourselves Special Ed Teachers), then your pre-planning week may look a bit different. If you are a co-teacher, you may not even have a classroom. I am fortunate enough this year to have my own room, but bulletin boards and files aside, there is just not as much classroom readiness involved as my fellow content teachers. Besides all of the pre-scheduled meetings and trainings, open house and team building activities, I have created a list of things I need to get done during this precious time before my kids arrive. This is what I need.
- Complete names of students under my case management and all of their services, service providers and times served
- Complete names of students I will be teaching (these may seem like the same thing, but I don't always teach students in my case management, and I also teach and provide accommodations for students identified as ESOL, Section 504, some RTI and ex ed under someone else's case management)
- Complete names of any other students that will be in my co-taught classes, since we work as a team and serve all of the students in our general ed setting
- For each of these students, I need their date of birth, parent/guardian contact information, address, bus numbers if applicable, bus drivers' names, the area(s) that qualifies them for supports or accommodations (thats the ex ed eligibility such as SLD, OHI, and the other areas of qualification such as ESOL, Secion 504, and RTI), the segment(s) I will directly serve them, or whether they are gifted or general ed
- I also need to know if any of the students have medical conditions that I need to be aware of
- I list each student with a Behavior Intervention Plan and include a copy of each plan
- I also like to make some sort of note of any affiliations each student has such as band, chorus, sports, cheerleading, dancing, drama, art (both in and out of school). With this one I may need to add items as time goes along
- I set up a sheet with each student, their classroom accommodations, their testing accommodations and any transition needs
- On a separate sheet, I make a list of each student's goals, both academic and transition goals, their due dates and methods, their success expectations and methods of collecting this data. I will keep my data collection sheets with these as they are completed
- I will copy and paste this data into segments and/or subjects I will pull the students for small group instruction or testing
- I create a documentation log folder to document each date and time I serve a student outside of the typical setting (for me that is usually In-School Suspension)
- I create a documentation log folder to document each date, time and reason I contact a student's parent/guardian
- A list of my caseload IEP beginning and ending dates
By taking my time now to get as much of this data collected and organized, I find it simplifies my life immeasureably. Now for you techies, yes, yes, yes, I KNOW all of this is typically available on-line, so why duplicate all of this information again, right? Well, I find creating it in the style and order I need it in eventually saves me time throughout the school year. I usually put most of my information in some sort of sheet document (our school system uses the Google Suite so Google sheets is my go-to), but Excel or any other sheet will work. I can create a master document to copy and paste from to group it as I need it, and if needed, I can print out a hard copy. However, when our district coordinator meets with me, I can pull up requested data quickly and easily, and data collected consistently and accurately backs me up every single time! I can show students, parents, administrators and myself exactly what has been taking place, evaluate effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.
Since I am still registering for my professional learning training classes, I have probably forgotten something. I know I have not included making sure that I plan with each teacher I am co-teaching with so we are both on the same page as school begins and can effectively CO-TEACH. And I also contact every parent/guardian either personally, by REMIND (a great communication tool we utilize), e-mail, snail mail and Meet the Teacher event. But, please, add any suggestions, additions or advice that can assist us all. Don't feel isolated...let's stand united!
Making any kind of plans for individuals like me who have a tendency to be...um...a little disorganized, unfocused, anxious...to name a few, may not quite look the same as it does for others. Or does It? In reading a number of testimonials, comments, blogs and articles, the same sentiment rings throughout. In fact, it sounds like my own, so I feel I am not alone.
The anticipation of a fresh start (like the school year about to start) is always so exciting to me. I actually make a visual board, cutting out pictures of slim, stylish people I aspire to look like. Organizational solutions, cute home decor, places I hope to visit, and pictures of volunteers serving others are all included...not really, but actually sounds good now that I see it in print. In actuality, I have gone as far as streaming photos together with similar types of pictures and images, set to upbeat, inspiring music. It was a fantastic project that was so much fun and enjoyable to create; unfortunately, it proved to be useless to me in the course of achievements across the long year, or even for a whole month (although it did provide short-lived motivation for me when I took the time to review it). But, in the end, I felt more disconnected, more impulsive and disorganized and more anxious than ever. What to do?
I still like the fresh start feeling of starting something new and experienced more personal growth that aligned to my goals than in the past by employing an odd piece in the beginning. After watching it work for a while now,I have concluded that this crazy method works for me. In fact, I use this same method in a scaled down version for each month, week and day or special project. Even this year's garden began this way. My dad always said I had my head in the clouds.
First, I take a piece of plain paper. A poster board probably makes more sense, but its vast blankness shuts me down. The copy paper can also grow and still fold up into a folder, which helps me a great deal. Colored gel pens or fine line colored markers have been my utensils of choice. My orginal piece looks more like a child's doodle sheet instead of a list of ideas or wants; definitely not a typical to-do list. In my main "clouds," I state positive affirmations (in present tense as if they are already accomplished). The picture shows the beginnings of such a sheet, with growth beginning at the "Music Cloud."
At this point, I need to interject that I am not particularly fond of artifical plants and flowers. As pitiful as I am at keeping indoor plants, I will not don my home with imitations. I enjoy experiencing the seasons and the natural cycle from seed, to growth, to fruitfulness and harvest, to seed again. As with the growth of the plants I grow in my garden, so is my cloud creation. I begin each year with a new resolution cloud formation. Although just my third year, I will still daringly call it my tradition to relish in my year's accomplishments, then (safely) light my cloud creation on fire at midnight on New Year's Eve. I have put the past year to rest and opened up a brand new creation for the upcoming year. But, please be careful about the fire part. We are lucky enough to have a fireplace, but on second thought, just shred it and make confetti!!
This plan of year-long activity may not work for anyone but me. Without the complete visual, it may not be fully understood by anyone but me. Therefore, I do not make any claims for this to guarantee anyone a fruitful 2019-2020 school year or other project. However I will continue to use it, and I will hopefully provide the completed visual of one before it becomes confetti. If I can provide more detail or answer any questions, please contact me at the "Contact Vee" tab at the top of the page.
After developing the clouds, my brainstorming part, I set up folders for the actual actions I take. These folders are the meat of any project to which I have committed. The folder will contain lists, drafts and ideas that I have "rained" from my clouds. These folders will or do also contain my final draft, completed project or pictures of completed projects. So, all-in-all, it is a four-part process. First, my ideas rise up and form clouds. Second, my clouds continue to grow until they eventually fall like rain. Third, the rain puddles into rough drafts or outlines. Then fourth and finally, they nourish the growth of a final product.
Having said this, I encourage you to continue to grow each and every day. Discover methods that work for you and cull the ones that don't. Seek growth instead of settling for contentment, careful not to miss what you have and be extremely grateful. I equate contentment with stagnation rather than satisfaction. So my wish for you is to feel a sense of satisfaction in all of your accomplishments, big and small, and use this to continue to grow.
Moving forever forward...