Sunday, October 27, 2013

I'm Here Because of Where I've Been

The title of this post pretty much says it all.  I am at the school I am at, because of the path that was planned for me.  If I hadn't followed my calling and said yes to the places and the people along the way, then I could be somewhere different perhaps.

Let me just update you, in case this is the first post of the last 3 that you have read.  I began telling my story of teaching, the good times and the bad, because I have read so many posts lately on blogs and through Facebook from teachers I follow that have been about teacher's feeling discontent and burned out.  I don't have the answer to why teacher's are feeling so stressed.  Maybe it's the demands of the government, the administration, students, families, colleagues or maybe all of these combined.  Whatever it is, I don't have an answer or a solution to fix what is wrong with everyone, but I do have empathy for those that are struggling.  I wrote these series of posts to possibly give hope to those in a less than perfect environment.  You are not alone, teacher friends, everyone struggles, but God promises that he has a plan and a purpose for you.  You just have to follow him.

I began teaching at a brand new school this year.  Brand new building, brand new staff, new kids, new books, new computers, new everything!  To say it is a dream come true is an understatement, but the road to where I am now has been paved by the choices and the people I have met along the way.

Over three years ago when I began looking for a job in Central KY, I interviewed for two different jobs. You know that I accepted the second job.  What you don't know is that I was not offered the first job, but was offered a one year position in that school.  I declined that at the time, because I needed something more permanent.  You also don't know, that I was offered another interview right here in the town I live in right after I had accepted the job at my second school.  Three years ago I could have been teaching in the county I lived in, what I really wanted to do the whole time, but I had made a verbal commitment to my second school and I couldn't go back on that.  If I had taken any of the other offers, I may have missed out on some of the struggles I had at the second school.  Possibly, I would have not had to work so hard to deal with behavior issues or I would have been in a district with a ton of special education support.  On the other hand, I would not have had the chance to learn new behavior techniques, I wouldn't have become certified as a math interventionist, I wouldn't be a part of a cadre to learn about autism and to better services the needs of those on the spectrum.  I wouldn't have had the chance to work with kids and parents that are different from me and different than what I was used to.  I learned a lot about different cultures and socio-economic levels there.  Maybe I wouldn't have developed my talents to become a leader, because I wouldn't have spent time on leadership teams or Site Based or had my first KTIP intern.  I also wouldn't have made the connections with some really awesome friends that mean the world to me now.  And, maybe my personal kids wouldn't have developed the friendships they made with some outstanding kiddos in that school.  Although, I experienced difficulty and often felt like I didn't really have anywhere to turn for help, the experiences I gained there helped to shape who I am becoming.

When I interviewed for the position I have now, someone said to me that I would be lucky to get a job at this brand new school, because they had heard how many people were applying for the 2 special education positions and it would be really hard to land this job or even get an interview.  At the time, my feelings were a little hurt, but you know, luck really had nothing to do with it.  God had prepared my heart and gave me the knowledge and wisdom I needed to move on one more time to do what He had called me to do.  Everything I had been through, the offers I declined, the chances I took, and the path I followed have all collectively led closer and closer to my dream.  I cannot discount the opportunities that I have had and the people that have influenced my teaching career.  Times were not always rosy, but God is in my plans.  He is in my future and He has led me faithfully this far.  I absolutely love where I am now and am beyond thankful for the opportunity to be where I am.  For now, I am content, I am living my dream right now, but I know there is more to come.  I have new dreams now and God is still in those and I cannot wait to see what is coming next!

To all of you, waiting for what's next, I pray blessings on your journey and your dreams.  Keep doing what you are doing, because you are being prepared for what is coming next.

One more thing...I just thank you all for reading my little blog from all the way out here in Kentucky.  I appreciate each of you that click and read what I have to say.  I have had the opportunity this week to talk with two different people (from different parts of the US) on the phone about my blog and what I'm doing and that is just unreal to me.  When I first started blogging, I had no idea the reach this would take or the difference it might make to someone.  I am starting to see the next part of my dream and God's plans come into view.  For that, I am so thankful!

Keep reading, keep teaching, and keep dreaming!!

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Story-The Next Chapter

Yesterday, I began sharing with you my story of teaching and my struggles and successes along the way.  After reading so many teacher blogs lately about frustrating situations and burnout, I felt like it may be time to share my story with my readers and let other people know that they are not alone.  There is a reason for every season!

My Story-Chapter 2
After searching for a job for several months and continually praying for the right place to go, I was offered a job at a small public school in Central KY.  The commute would be about 25 minutes from our new house and it was an exciting time for our whole family.  We moved in June of 2010 and settled into our new home quickly.  We came here not knowing a soul, except my friend, Mandy's sister, Misty.  I am thankful for her being here and introducing me to some great people that are my new friends today.

I spent a majority of my summer nervous about a new school and homesick.  There were several days that I wondered if I had done the right thing and I missed my family and my old school something awful!  As the summer went on and I was allowed into the school building, I was quickly overwhelmed with the work that needed to be done.  I'm not even talking about paperwork, I mean physical labor here people.  I shared a room with another special ed teacher and her side of the room looked great, but the part I inherited...not-so-much!  I spent several days moving out furniture and pitching junk in a trash can!  Besides the mess that I walked into, I also walked into a school that was the opposite of what I had recently taught at.  This school was in a high minority, high poverty area.  I was warned about the severe needs of my students and the extreme behaviors of some others.  It definitely made this country girl nervous.  This was the closest to "inner city" that I could imagine.  Honestly, some of the stories that I was told made me extremely nervous about working in this school and made me miss home even more.

I must say that although the building was not new and there was a lot of work to do with the students, I was welcomed to the school with open arms and a good attitude.  I will forever be indebted to a few wonderful teachers there.  Cyndee was my special ed partner in crime and she showed me the ropes and the ways of this school district.  The other person is Janet.  Janet became my mom here!  She became my go to person and my surrogate mom (because now I lived 4 and a half hours from my mom).  Janet and I were co-teachers and we could speak to each other in class without saying a word.  We even told our class that I was her daughter and they believed us!  I am proud to call her "mom," when I had to be so far from my own.  I spent many an afternoon spilling my guts to her, sharing my joys, and unloading my burdens.  There were tough circumstances for many of my students (things I had never dealt with before) and Janet showed me support and gave me ways to handle the new kids and situations I faced, all while being my friend and confidant.

During my three years at PES, I encountered many struggles and because the people there are so near and dear to me, I don't feel as if I should share everything that was tough.  One of the biggest challenges for me was coming from a large school district to a very small school district (one elementary-about 300ish kids, one middle, and one high school).  This place was tiny in comparison to my previous district.  There were many times that I felt alone and unsure how to handle situations, because I didn't have a lot of people to bounce ideas off of.  Our special education department consisted of 2 special ed. teachers, speech therapist, OT, and special education director/school psychologist.  Honestly, if there was a problem and one of us didn't have an answer there wasn't really anywhere else to turn.  I can remember one student that I worked with that had some challenging behaviors.  I tried everything that I knew to do to modify his behavior and implemented strategies to keep him in the regular classroom, but for all of my efforts and the advice of others, it was nearly impossible.  Sometimes special education can be a lonely field, just because there aren't as many of us out there and schools usually only have a few sped teachers unlike the several regular education teachers at all grade levels.

My first year there, I felt like it was my calling to be there.  God had opened doors for me and placed me where I needed to be.  There were kids there that needed me and I worked as hard as I could to meet their needs.  The second year, I felt like I should stay and see my kids through another year and the one kid in particular (that I mentioned early) was making progress and I felt compelled to stay and help him and his family.  By the third year, I knew in my heart that my time here was almost over.  The student I worked so hard to help moved away and another student that stole my heart and helped me grow as a teacher was headed to middle school.  I could do longer feel the compelling pull to stay.  I was ready to go and ready to grow.  This brings me almost up to present day, friends.  ;)

I began searching for a new job in the spring and as you know I did find a new school home.  This second chapter of my teaching career was a learning and growing experience.   It gave me the opportunity to work with a population of students different than what I was accustomed to and it gave me challenge of finding and implementing new ideas.  I think this is where I grew the most into a leader and realized more of my dream of becoming a teacher that helps other teachers.  I love, love my students and want to continue working with kids for several years to come, but it also opened my eyes to new opportunities in leadership and gave me the confidence to try new things. I know several of you reading this are in a place that you are not that excited about, but I promise you that you are there for a purpose.  God is growing something inside of you.  He is giving you a challenge and helping you to grow.  I know situations can be tough, but this too shall pass and you will come out better for what you go through in the end.

Tomorrow-The New School :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

For Every Season There is a Reason-My Story (Part 1)

Lately, I've been reading several blog posts about teacher burnout or bad experiences that teachers are having in the classroom this year.  Unfortunately, every career has its lows and teaching is no exception.  We are far enough into the school year now that the new has worn off, the reports cards have gone out, the students are finding their niche (or lack of) academically and socially, and parents are making their pleasure or disdain known.  It is a tough time of year.  Period.  I do not want this post to be about passing blame or even finding reasons why teaching is so difficult, but instead I wish to bring hope to those that are in difficult situations in teaching.  I would like to share my story with you.  I have waited a long time to share my story, as I feel that it is not complete, but I want to share with you and encourage others that are having a rough time right now.  I will warn you now that this promises to be lengthy and maybe emotional (well, mostly for me, anyway), but if you are reading this then please keep reading.  My plan is to write this in three parts, as I have now taught in three different school districts and my prayer is that my story touches someone. 

Part 1-HES
This is my tenth year teaching and it has definitely had its ups and downs.  The first several years are a blur to me now and sometimes I think back and say to myself, "How in the world did I ever make it?"  I was very fortunate to begin my teaching career in January of 2004 after graduating in December of 2003.  I was welcomed into a school that was warm and inviting and I was blessed to teach with some of my college classmates.  I taught in a resource setting all day my first year.  This was a tough time to say the least, because I was brand new and trying to find my way into a school year that had already started around a staff that I didn't know in a town forty five minutes from my house.  This first school though, had several "seasoned" teachers that took me under their wings and taught me "the ways."  The principal, teachers, parents, and students quickly became family to me. HES was the top in the state and reached Proficiency early in the game, but good test scores weren't the only thing that made this school so special. People from the community and in the school often remarked about the care and dedication of the teachers in our building and the amazing parent support that helped create a climate like no other.  The school was often called the most Christian school that wasn't actually a religious school.  Pretty good for a public school if you ask me, as my relationship with God and my care for my family is the most important thing to me.   I spent five years at HES teaching resource and collaboration in the intermediate grade levels and my sixth and final year there co-teaching in Kindergarten.  Little did I know, that God was preparing me for a bigger change and placed me teaching with my best friend that would support and encourage me to make one of the biggest transitions of my life.  

In December of 2010, my husband was offered a job in the Central Kentucky area.  As I mentioned earlier I was teaching with my best friend, Mandy.  Mandy and I often talked about the Central KY area, because this is where her sister lives.  She always talked about how she liked it here and thought I would like it, too.  Little did either of us know at the time that God had something in store.  I vividly remember one day after school helping Mandy wipe down the tables in her Kindergarten classroom discussing G-town and how nice it is and how it would be weird if my husband were to ever relocate with his job to this area. My husband and I knew, in the back of our mind that this may be an option at some point in our lives, but never really expected anything to ever happen.  Not long after my conversation with Mandy that day, my husband informed me that a colleague of his in the Central KY area had been let go and that his company was looking for someone to fill that position.  Suddenly, we were faced with a decision that we had always haphazardly talked about and only really taken lightly, but now realized that this could be reality.  In December of 2009, my husband and I decided that relocating for his job was an opportunity that couldn't be passed up.  God had opened so many doors for us and confirmed this decision to us in so many ways that the final decision was actually very easy to make.  Mandy was the first person that I told.  I told her even before my family knew anything about this at all.  She was so happy for me and encouraged me to go and even though I knew that I would be leaving a school I loved and people that were like family to me, I knew in my heart that this is what we were meant to do.  I must say that my friend's encouragement and excitement for me and this new journey was all of the confirmation that I needed that the right decision had been made. We kept our news quiet through Christmas and finally told our families after the holidays.  Talk about keeping a secret!  Whew!  That was tough!

Soon after the new year, I made the news known to my principal that I would be leaving.  It was a sad time, but exciting.  Emotions were high is an understatement.  My husband started his new position soon after the beginning of the year and moved to Lexington (four hours away from me and our two kids-who at the time where 7 and 3) in February, but I stayed back to finish up the school year and to begin the search for a new job.  This definitely took a toll on my sanity!  I've noticed while reading other teachers posts about their burnout or a tough school year is immediately after big change.  Change is so difficult, but it is how we handle that change that determines how we come out in the end.  

My husband came home every weekend during the five months that we were separate from one another and we either talked or Skyped every evening. Here my little guy is talking to Daddy while he is gone for his new job.

 I am thankful for HES during this time in my life.  Several teachers there took care of me and encouraged me.  Mandy was by my side and always willing to help.  My parents lived close and were there every time I called.  It was tough, but manageable.  During this time of transition I began completing applications and filing out resumes and hoping and praying that I could find a job from hundreds of miles away.  I drove to Central KY twice for two separate interviews and luckily landed the second job.  I was ecstatic to have somewhere to go to when I left my old school.  Leaving my old school though, turned out to be one of the hardest things that I ever did in my life.  

HES is where I "grew up" as a teacher.  I had wonderful mentors, principals, and friends and family all right there in that 500+ student body and staff.  I learned to be a leader there, I followed the footsteps of amazing teachers, and strived to me like them one day, and I was leaving behind my best friends, which now had become my family.  I questioned our decision so many times when it came down to time to really say good-bye.  On the last day of school,  I was a wreck.  I cried probably 90% of that day and when I wasn't crying I was thinking about crying.  I would miss that school so much.  After I said my final good-byes for one last time, I opened the main doors to the outside and stepped out, and thought to myself, "This is the last time that I leave this building as a teacher at HES."  Humbled, heart crushed, excited, confused, anxious were only a few of the ways I was feeling on this last day.  One thing though that gave me comfort was that everyone there always said, "Once a Hunter, Always a Hunter" is a motto that rings so true to the students, teachers and families that go through the doors of HES.

This is just the first "chapter" in my story of life and school.  I must say that life was good there and I was lucky to have been there for so long, but that season of my life was ending and God was preparing me for what lay ahead.  Many changes and questions would soon fill my mind and heart as new school year started.  Fellow teachers, I know how hard it is to make a change.  I know how difficult it is to leave your comfort zone and a place you love, but sometimes God puts you in a place for a season for His reasons.  Whether you have it good where you are at right now or it just stinks where you are, believe that there is a greater purpose for your life.  You are being prepared to do great things.

Until tomorrow and "chapter 2,"  ;)


Monday, October 21, 2013

The ABC Guide to Paraprofessionals' Role and Responsibilities

We all have those moments when we have to create something out of necessity, right?  This year, I am the special ed. team leader at my school and this puts me "in charge" of several things.  I have to attend team leader meetings monthly, help my special ed colleagues by giving suggestions on strategies to help kids and also on all of that lovely paperwork, and working with and managing paraprofessionals.  

I can tell you that I scoured the internet looking for something that would be just right to help me show to a paraprofessional that would lay out what their responsibilities within the school setting are.  I came up empty handed.  I figured that if I had this need then others have this need and there is not much help out there.  So, to help you and me, I have created the ABC Guide to Paraprofessionals' Roles and Responsibilities.  This handy guidebook is organized using the alphabet and is written in a user friendly, positive format.  Each letter of the alphabet is a responsibility or a guideline for a paraprofessional to follow (heads-up...some letters have two responsibilities).  A sign-ff page is included at the end for your documentation for training purposes.

The ABC Guide to Paraprofessionals' Roles and Responsibilities

I hope you enjoy and find it very useful!!


Monday, October 7, 2013


Hey friends!  No Math this Monday!! We are on Fall Break and hanging out in Disney World! :)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Workshop Wednesday-Word Work

I'm joining up with Ideas by Jivey this week for Workshop Wednesday!  This week the topic is Word Work and how you use it in reader's workshop.

This is my word work area.  The small whiteboard hold the directions for the word work and is also needed sometimes to complete word work.  The two ottomans hold all of the materials needed for word work.  (I scored these ottomans with lift off lids at Target on CLEARANCE!)  
My word work works like this:
Each student is tested on fluency each Monday.  The words that the student misses, becomes a word the student needs to know.  These words are placed on notecards and stored in plastic notecard boxes.  The students also have words from their sight word list.  I use FRY words for sight word practice.  The students have between 10-15 words in their word box.  The students have time in their schedule to work on their individual words.  They are assessed on the words on Fridays.  

See what's inside the ottomans and what activities my kids love to use:

I found these red, zipper bags at the Dollar Tree.  They are perfect for holding word work materials and also fit neatly into the ottomans.  Here you see my Nuts and Bolts activity.  The twist the nuts on the bolts to spell their words.

Stickers and Stamps!

Black paper and Chalk
Foam letters

All activities neatly tucked away.

Also, if you've been reading my blog lately, you know that I discussed my procedures for  teaching resource reading/guided reading.  Each guided reading lesson has a word work component.  Some weeks it may be spelling patterns and other weeks it may be synonyms, antonyms, etc.  I keep any activity sheets and instructions for specific activities in the word work area.  The students are required to complete the weekly guided reading lesson specific activity before they can do a choice word work activity.