teaching is living.

New school year stresses…sigh.

Uh oh! Summer break is

That means, it is time to prepare for the new school year.  It’s my very first “new school year” as a new teacher (being that I started teaching in the middle of last school year) and boy have the stresses kicked in.  So much to do with so little time.  It feels as if this inservice week just doesn’t have enough hours in the day to complete everything that I want to do.

For starters, my classroom got painted by a group of Lowe’s volunteers and the random cubicles that were in my classroom were removed.  I took that opportunity to rearrange the classroom the way I want.  Since I started in the middle of a school year, I just rolled with the punches and left everything as it was so that my students didn’t experience dramatic change.  Rearranging the entire classroom means moving furniture, reorganizing cabinets and storage, purging of unwanted/unused/broken items.  I am not sure that all of my staff is completely happy with the change and/or need to organize, but hey it’s got to be done!  Change is not always bad.  

So with the rearranging of the furniture and new open space, I was able to create a dedicated area for TEACCH stations (independent deskwork), a small group area, a sensory table/play area, a new staff area, and of course, circle time and snack/lunch areas.  What’s great is that our new snack area now has shelving and access to kitchen items, so students aren’t going to two different locations to complete tasks like heating up their food, or putting away dishes.  It’s all now in one common “eating/food/kitchen” area.  Hopefully, this will provide more functional meaning to tasks such as setting up snack table or sorting dishes.

Moving into an already established classroom comes with its own stresses.  First, I have to go through and sort, organize, and filter previous teacher stuff like lesson plan binders.  It might take a full day to organize just my teacher stuff!  On the bright side, the past 6 months of operating a class under someone else’s standards/physical environment, has given me lots of time to think about how I can add my personality and flavor into it.  I want the classroom to reflect who I am as a person and as a teacher.

Reflection of the past 6 months

Being that it is a new school year, I figure I ought to reflect on the first 6 months of teaching and create personal goals for the new school year.  It has been a wonderful learning experience being a new teacher.  I am very fortunate to work in a small school setting that allows me to really focus on growing as a teacher and allow me to make mistakes and experiment with programming.  I think my biggest challenges have been:

  • Not second guessing myself, especially when my co-teacher questions everything! I know what I am doing.  I spent 4 years studying and working in the field.
  • Leading a team of very different personalities has been a real personal challenge.  I have a somewhat passive personality.  Some of my staff members have very strong and dominating personalities.  It has been a process learning strategies to maintain myself (as to not lose myself in their dominance) and to establish my own dominance being that it is my classroom and I have the final say so.  I have had conversations with my co-teacher, in particular, and what I have learned is that she wants to lead a classroom of her own and has a hard time following someone else’s lead.  We have 2 total different visions for the classroom.

Goals for the new school year

  • I want establish a more dominant stand and stronger leader position with my staff, and most importantly, with my co-teacher.  How do I make it clear that it is my classroom, my final decision, etc without taking away the team rapport and/or being rude about it?
  • Train my staff on how to teach core academic subjects and manage small groups
  • Train my staff in organizational and planning skills
  • Figure out how to write great goals that focus on both academics and daily living skills
  • Create fundraiser ideas to help fund fieldtrips

I am excited to start the new school year.  I am excited to implement new ideas, such as new academic based small groups, parent newsletters, monthly themes, and sensory play groups.  Happy 2012-2013 school year!


Let me introduce my students.

So I had a new kiddo start this week and I definitely can tell I got spoiled by the fact that my current students are familiar with our daily routines.  Let me give you a background on my students.  I have 6 students, well now 7 students.

A.P. is my only female student. She is 8 years old.  She loves scripting scenes, which in turn has been her only form of communication.  She has been at the school since she was 5.  Loves social interaction, sometimes to the point where it impedes her attention focus during groups.

A.B. is a 7 year old male and is my only student that is not autistic.  He has Fragile X, which has similar developmental delays.  He has been at the school since he was 5 as well.  He uses an AAC device as his means of communication.  He is very shy around other students and staff and will often cover his face with his arm when asked to do something he is not comfortable with.

N.V. is a 9 year old male and is such a lover.  He likes to whistle to you, smell you hair, and touch your face.  He also uses an AAC device as his means of communicating and he is probably my most independent student.

B.M. is my second most recent student.  He started on the exact same day I did- Feb 6, 2012!  He is 6 years and is a verbal communicator but is limited on his vocabulary.  He is very high academically, but his spatial awareness and sensory input/output needs are in dyer need of work.  He often squeezes you to get sensory input and seems as if he is always in “lala-land”.

D.D. is a 7 year old male who is OBSESSED with spinning everything in sight.  He is a verbal communicator and very high functioning academically, well in comparison to my other students.  I can sight read, but is limited on what books will motivate him to read.  Likes to give high-fives.  He has also been at the school for a couple of years.

T.B. is my most complex student.  He requires a 1:1 staff. He is non-verbal and currently has no form of a functional communication system.  This is his 3rd year at the school and the first two years, from what I was told, was spent dealing with aggressive and self-injurious behaviors.  He is on a super strict diet and is now much more open to learning and using his communication system.  He loves bubbles and bouncing balls, but can also be very stubborn when he doesn’t want to do something he doesn’t like.

And finally, my newest- literally started yesterday!- is M.L. who is a 6 year old male and very similar to B.M in that he is high academically, but seems to still be learning how to deal with the world around him.  He is verbal, but from what I can tell so far, needs lots of prompting to enhance his vocabulary and sentence composition.  He loves anything art related and has enjoyed our circle time.  I am still getting to know him and it has been tiring starting from the beginning of it all


With all of that said- I should probably note that of my now 7 students, only 2 of them are independent in the bathroom.  Four of them require 1:1 assistance in the bathroom and 3 of them are in pull-ups.  Needless to say, bathroom times are pretty chaotic.

With 7 students and 4 staff, you would think the ratio is easy to manage, but it’s not when each student requires a significant amount of individualized support to be successful in most tasks, including simple tasks such as checking your schedule, writing your name, or transitioning to another activity.  I do have to admit, that going into teaching I did not see myself teaching this young age group, but I love it.  It is just a learning opportunity with every step.  (But that’s a future blog to come!)

Thank you for taking the time to meet my E1 students.  🙂


Hello world!

Hello World! It is my first year as a Special Education teacher.  I work at a small non-public school in California that services students on the Autism Spectrum.  My classroom consists of 7 students ranging in age 6-9.  They are all unique and special in their own ways.  I have some that are non-verbal and learning a communication system and some that are very high-functioning and learning to master basic functional living skills. I started teaching February 6, 2012 and have enjoyed every day in my classroom.  I have learned TONS from my students and look forward to continue to learn from them and grow as a Special Education teacher.
I am using this blog as an avenue to track my growth over this glorious career path.  I look forward to sharing my world with you.
With much love,

Teacher Erica