Disability Awareness

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
As a sister of a very special brother, I have been teaching others about disability, Down syndrome to be specific, for as long as I can remember. I remember having friends come to my house for sleepovers when I was 5 or 6 and explaining to my friends that my brother has Down syndrome and is "just like us. He just learns things slower." When I became a special education teacher, my love for teaching others about disabilities and raising awareness grew immensely. Last year, I had the privilege of being a part of the piloting of a moderate to severe special education program in my district. It was the first year that my school had had students with moderate to severe disabilities on their campus. Almost immediately, many questions arose amongst general education students and teachers about my precious students....and I LOVED answering them. I was so excited when my administrator gave me the "go ahead" to spend some time in the general education classrooms for Down syndrome awareness month.

Today, I will be sharing a few ways that I helped raise awareness and educate general education students on my campus about disability. Obviously, each campus is different and what worked for me and my school, may not work for yours, but I hope to provide enough ideas and resources that you can find something that will work for you.

1. Schedule Classroom Visits: I sent out an email to all of the teachers on my campus and made sure to include my school psychologist and specialists. I arranged with several teachers to spend 15-30 minutes in the classroom doing a few activities and answering any questions that their students may have about disability. We had some authentic conversations and participated in fun activities. See the resources below for some great tips on how to lead the conversation!

2. Provide General Education Teachers with Resources: I also made sure to continuously provide general education teachers on my campus with email blasts containing cool awareness videos or tips that they could easily incorporate in the classroom when they had some free time.

3. Build Relationships with General Education Students: As a new teacher this can be difficult, but I try to be as involved as I can with the general education students on my campus. This could simply look like saying "hi" around campus and learning their name or it could look like being a volleyball coach or leading student council. I try my best to be seen on campus as a "cool" teacher so that students see my students in a positive light. I want my classroom to be warm and welcoming.

4. Build Relationships with General Education Teachers: This is another one that can be tricky simply because sometimes my breaks are at a different time than the general education teachers' breaks. I have been advised time and time again to make an "appearance" in the lounge as much as I can to build and grow relationships with my co-workers. This allows for you to easily ask for IEP attendees or mainstreaming opportunities without the awkward, "Who are you again?" (haha just kidding.) I also make sure to send out an email at the beginning of the year to arrange for mainstreaming minutes.

5. Open Up Your Classroom: I am a HUGE fan of reverse mainstreaming! At the beginning of the school year when I send out an email asking when PE, music, and art times are, I also let the general education teachers know that "their" students are welcome in my classroom. I currently have a few students that come into my classroom and teach an art lesson once a week. My students love it and the general education students get invaluable leadership experience.

5. Utilize the Resources that Have Already Been Created: There are so many brilliant minds that have already written disability awareness lesson plans. Utilize what they have created. No need to re-create the wheel. Here are some resources that I found helpful:

National Down Syndrome Society Lesson Plans

Autism Speaks Educational Tool Kit

If you have any questions or want to brainstorm some ideas for your campus, do not hesitate to contact me at delightfullydedicatedspeciaed@gmail.com.

Back to School Teacher Crafts

Saturday, August 29, 2015
I don't know about you, but I love the back to school classroom decorating/organizing/crafting season. If I am honest, I am somewhat sad that that part of the school year only comes once a year. With that said, today I am going to share 3 of my absolutely favorite Back to School crafts that I did this summer for my classroom. I got all of them off of pinterest (AMAZING), but I wanted to show you how I adapted and modified them for my special guys and how I am utilizing them in my classroom.

For detailed instructions on how to do the craft, click on the name of the craft and it will take you to the wonderful pinterest tutorials. I hope that some of these crafts can give you a creative outlet in the midst of all of the other back to school craziness.

1. Crate Seats

My modification? I added clear polished vinyl to help protect the seats. We all know that accidents, spills, and spit can happen so I wanted to make sure they were protected and could easily be cleaned. My students sit on the crates for morning meeting and afternoon adios.

2. Tool Belt Supply Bags

I put these on the back of my students' chairs. Most of my students do not have the self control to keep pencil boxes in their desks so my thought was to put these bags on the back of their chairs and use them to hold their supplies. It works for some students and does not work for others. I think they are cute. These would also be cute to decorate for your aides to wear during rotations so that they have all the supplies that they need right at their fingertips.

3. Easy No Sew Curtains

These were SO easy to make and, well, they do not really serve a function, but I think they are adorable. They make me happy and a happy teacher helps the class be happy :)

I hope you enjoy these crafts! Be sure to share photos of your craftivities and tag me!

Summer is Coming!

Monday, May 25, 2015
Summer is coming! Summer is coming! Summer is coming!

I cannot believe I only have 5 full days and 3 half days of school left. I cannot believe it. It feels like I was JUST setting up my classroom, organizing all of my visuals and curriculum, and figuring out my daily schedule. Now I am beginning to pack things up and preparing to move back to my hometown. It is so bittersweet. I am so excited to be surrounded by my family once again after being apart for 6 years. I am excited about having new students, a new classroom, and a new school...BUT I am so sad to leave this beautiful place that I live and so so sad to leave my current school, co-workers, and students. I know that a flood of tears will come the moment that I say goodbye to my 10 precious students who have touched my heart immensely this school year, but for the next 8 days I am going to cherish every moment that I have laughing with them, dancing with them, and teaching them.

I will not be teaching summer school/Extended School Year this year, but I have created some summer themed products to pass on to the teacher that will be teaching my current group of students. The following products are easy to use, require minimal prep, and can be purchased at my TPT here. You can use them for your last few weeks/days of school, for take-home summer packets, or for summer school! Be sure to head over to my store and download my math summer freebie.

Vocabulary Included in Both Products: 
Flip Flops
Palm Tree
Ice Cream

Summer Vocabulary Special Education or Early Elementary No-Prep Printable Pack

3 different levels for various learners! 

Summer Sight-Word Unit for Special Education or Early Elementary

Vocabulary Cards

Summer Sight-Word Adapted Book
2 versions: Color to Color, Color to Black & White

Sentence Building Worksheets
2 levels for various learners

Summer Sight-Word Student Book

Purchase my summer products here. 


Thank You, Special Education Teacher

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dear special education teacher,
    Thank you for the smile and enthusiasm that you greet me with each morning. That smile makes me feel like I'm the center of the world. That smile helps me forget my uncertainty, nervousness, and fear, and come to school each day. Thank you for being silly with me...for dancing and "going crazy" and making up songs using words that I am able to say. Thank you for searching and searching for toys and vests and trampolines and fidgets that make me feel good inside and help me be the best me that I can be. Thank you for pretending that you are hurt when I am hurt so that I will willingly put on a bandaid so that I can be like you...and wearing it all day long until you forget you're not really hurt. Thank you for secretly plugging your nose and not looking grossed out when I have an accident so that I am not embarrassed or ashamed for not being able to hold it. Thank you for spending countless hours cutting papers and putting plastic on them so that I can use them over and over again. Thank you for believing in me so much that other people think you are a bit crazy. That makes me feel confident and special and, well, amazing. Thank you for talking with your friends and making sure that I have a special role on campus with their students. I like spending time with their students. Thank you for writing goals for me and making sure that legally I am getting all the services that I need. Thank you for putting all that paperwork aside during the day and playing with me when I ask you to in my own unique way. Thank you for be patient with me when I hit you, scratch you, or bite you when I am anxious, scared, trying to communicate, or simply being stubborn. Please do not take it personally. Thank you for talking with my parents and helping them understand me. More than anything else, thank you for seeing ME and loving me for me!

                                      Your Student


Hello Soon-To-Be First Year Teacher

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hello Soon-To-Be First Year Teacher,
    I have two months to go until I can say that I have completed [survived] my first year of teaching. As I reflect on the past few months, I am flooded with a mix of emotions and a hundred crazy stories. I have learned SO much this year about teaching, about children, about working with others, and about myself. I'm so excited for YOU as you begin this journey. I hope that this can be some sort of encouragement to you, Soon-To-Be First Year Teacher, throughout this upcoming year.

1. It's impossible to know all the answers and that's okay. 

As a teacher, you have to make hundreds of small decisions throughout the day. I had no idea how many decisions I would have to make and how many I would be completely clueless about! Students ask you questions, co-workers ask you questions, and parents ask you questions. In all reality, there is no way you are going to know the answer to them all, but sometimes you just have to make a decision and go with it (at least for the "small" ones) or simply, admit you do not know the answer, but you will look into it (for the "big" ones). If you are wrong, you can humbly admit you are wrong and learn from your mistake. If you are right, then go with it and celebrate the fact that you learned something. Either way, make sure that take the time to find the right answer from those that are more experienced than you and learn from your uncertainty.

2. Pace yourself. 

The beginning of the year is crazy. You have to decorate bulletin boards, arrange furniture, collaborate with professionals and service providers (I'm a special education teacher so I have to make sure all of my kiddos are getting their service hours in), figure out a daily schedule (and staff schedules and bathroom schedule) that works for your class and their needs, train your staff of paraprofessionals (if you have them), meet parents and students, and attend several training sessions for your staff and new curriculum. Oh yeah...and you have to plan and TEACH! Like I said, IT'S CRAZY and it's so easy to become consumed by all that you need to do and get done, but I have learned that there will always be work that needs to be [can be] done. Do not work so hard at the beginning of the year that you burn yourself out. Set a reasonable time that you will leave each day. Set aside one day that you will stay late at work to plan and prep. What you don't get done one week, you can work on the next. Don't go into work every weekend or feel like you are a bad teacher if you don't. You will be so glad that you paced yourself and set boundaries at the beginning of the year when it comes to February and March (I am learning this lesson the hard way).

3. Passion can go a long way. 

Take the time to write out why you want to be a teacher. Before you start teaching, before you start your career, write down all the reasons why you are going into this field. Type them up, make them cute, and place them somewhere in your classroom that you can visibly see it day to day. This will be a good reminder throughout the upcoming year. You chose this field for a reason. You are passionate about kids and learning and about developing future generations. All the confusion you may feel throughout the year, all the tiredness you experience, all the tears that you shed are all worth it. It will get better (I still tell myself that and others still tell me that). Make sure to remind yourself (and put others in your life that will remind you) why you are passionate about teaching.

GOOD LUCK! You can do it!

Teaching Portfolio

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I was so happy to receive several email responses to my last post about applications and interviews. Many of you are curious about my teaching portfolio so I thought I would write a post with some specific details about my portfolio.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my portfolio only has five tabs. You can search for "teaching portfolio" on pinterest and numerous pictures and blog posts will appear. I spent some time looking at what other people have done and then decided what I wanted to do. I only chose five tabs because it is simple for me and it is simple for the interviewee. I feel like if there are too many tabs it can just be overwhelming. I wanted to create something that was useful for me to use during my interview. For example, when asked a question about classroom management or parent communication, I wanted to be able to flip to that tab and show specific examples and pictures of my classroom behavior plan and parent communication. It's important to remember that I am a special education teacher and so my tabs and topics may look different than the tabs and topics that a general education teachers would choose.

This tab includes my cover letter, resume, a copy of my credential, and proof of passing my "teacher" tests (in California we have several tests we have to pass). You might also include you the proof that you passed your TB test or any other special certifications that you have that pertain to the job.

This tab includes my weekly communication log, my IEP parent input form (download it here), an example of my "What are we learning? sheet, and a few other forms that I have used to communicate with parents throughout the year.

This tab includes a picture of my whole class behavior management system (you can purchase this system here). It also includes other examples of my behavior visuals. For example, I included a rotation card, a "first then" card, and a token economy card.

This tab includes sample lesson plans that I had written for my formal observation, visuals that I used for those lesson plans, a social story that I wrote, an example data sheet, and an example worksheet that I created.

This tab included my list of references and reference letters that I have collected throughout the years.

Note to new teachers, for my first round of interviews right out of the credential program, I did not have a teaching portfolio. Looking back, I wish that I would have put something together because it is so much easier to show and explain a system than it is to just explain it, especially when you are nervous. I know as a new teacher right out of the credential program you might not have a lot of forms and worksheets. Spend some time with your master teacher, looking at blogs, and on teachers pay teachers and collect some forms and worksheets that you imagine that you will use in you future classroom. They might not end up working for you or for your classroom, but you will at least be able to show your potential future employers that you have a vision for your classroom. If you have any questions or would like some worksheets or forms, please do not hesitate to email me.

Good luck to each and every one of you! Remember, show your passion and love for teaching. Knowledge and education is obviously important, but passion and love cannot be taught.

Applications & Interviews

Saturday, April 18, 2015
I have been busy over the past couple of weeks with lots of triennial IEPs, departments meeting, finishing up BTSA, and.......(drumroll) interviews! That's right, after a lot of thought and prayer, I have decided to move back to my hometown to be closer to my family. I moved to my current location for college, completed my credential at the same college that I completed my undergraduate work at, and then landed a job right after that a few cities over. I have absolutely LOVED my time living where I live and working where I work, but I so so miss my family. It's time to move HOME! I had an interview two weeks ago and then two interviews this week and officially accepted a position (and told my current employer that I will be leaving) on Friday. I feel so at peace about it. It is, of course, sad to leave my current job-my AMAZING principal, co-workers, aides, and students, but I have no doubt that I making the right decision for me in my current season of life. What grade will I be teaching? I do not know! I accepted the position without knowing, but I do know it is a great district with great support and it will not be younger than kindergarten or older than 8th grade. I can handle that. I'm so so excited!

After searching for a job, I have a few insights for those of you that are going through the same process:

1) Check for jobs regularly (EVERYDAY)

2) Apply early

3) Go to job/teaching fairs and stop by the booths of the districts that you are interested in...even if you already have an interview. 
This really helped me. I walked into two interviews already knowing at least one of my interviewees. This helped me feel confident and more at ease during the interview.

4) Don't be afraid to show your fun, creative side.
I created a fun, colorful flyer with an "all about me" section and pictures of myself, my bulletin boards, and some of my core values. I handed it out at the job fair to districts that I had already applied to and given my cover letter and resume to. It made me stand out and also made the representatives' day a bit more interesting. The same ole, same ole resumes and cover letters have to get boring after a while.

5) If you get more than one job offer, create a pro and con list (at least mentally) and talk it over with someone else that you trust and that knows about the profession. 
I talked with my wonderful, amazing, Godly master teacher the night before I made a decision and she helped me have so much clarity about my decision.

6) Bring a portfolio....or at least a few work samples and pictures.
This helps your interviewees have a better picture of who you are in your classroom. My portfolio has five sections: Professional Documents, Parent Communication, Behavior Management, Lessons & Activities, & References.

Feel free to contact me at delightfullydedicatedspecialed@gmail.com if you have any specific questions about the application and interview process. I would be more than happy to answer them. Just a random note, going through the interview process after having a year of experience is SO much easier and SO much more enjoyable than the interview process right out of the credential program.


The Power of a Laugh

Monday, April 13, 2015

One of my non-verbal students recently received an iPad with the AMAZING Dynavox Compass app downloaded on it for communication. We were relaxing a bit after lunch listening to our ocean sounds (and pretending we were laying on the beach getting a tan...at least I was) and I hear an automated, "that's funny!" and a little giggle...and then more giggles from two or three other students. It was music to my ears. My little class clown is finally able to SPEAK and make jokes and be mischievous with his peers. There is nothing like seeing him light up and giggle and laugh. It brings so much joy to my heart. It did not take him long to find his other two favorite phrases: "I want goldfish crackers," and "you're a turkey." He just looks at me, presses "You're a turkey" and giggles and giggles. The jokes on you, Miss Dill. I love it.

I feel like I am learning to enjoy those simple moments and become a facilitator of more moments just like it. Today I made sure to spend at least five minutes with two of my non-verbal kiddos and the ipad. We just talked about their weekend and I asked them random questions. We talked. We laughed. We played Simon Says. For the first part of the year, it was so difficult for me to figure out how to incorporate the iPad as a tool for communication into instruction. It felt so forced. It wasn't until I just tried to chit chat and laugh with my students, putting aside my own teaching "to-do" list, that I became an effective communicator (and teacher) with the iPad. I'm learning a whole new definition of speaking, friendship, and laughing from my ten precious students and I am so very thankful for that.

Letter Identification and Sorting ALL IN ONE!

Thursday, February 5, 2015
I am currently clearing my credential. I am going through an induction program instead of going through a university. That means I have a mentor, I do reflections, I have meetings, and I get OBSERVED (and I thought student teacher was over!). I was observed on Monday and threw together a lesson late Sunday night focused on letter identification (and sorting) and it went surprisingly really well.

First, I introduced our letter of the week, Q. Then we did an activity on the iPad using Boardmaker Online. (I recently bought an subscription. It is $20 a month and totally worth it! It does so much and really engages the students in almost any activity you can imagine...or create.) After our technology fun, we dove into our pocket chart activity. Lastly, the students completed their own sorting worksheets.

Pocket Chart Sorting

 Individual Sorting Worksheet

You can download this activity here. It is valentine's day themed and FREE! 

It worked so well for my students that I created an A-Z sorting letters packet! It's over 100 pages and includes pocket chart visuals, worksheets, and cute A-Z clip art so student's can practice their initial sounds. You can purchase the A-Z pack here.


FIRST THEN container!

Monday, February 2, 2015
I found these awesome food storage containers at IKEA for $2.99 and knew exactly what I wanted to use them for....m&ms and goldfish crackers, of course! They are a favorite treat for two of my most stubborn students. Luckily, we have found that using m&ms and goldfish at special points during the day (like when coming into the class, going to the bathroom, or during work stations) can be a very powerful reinfocrer. I added some visuals and we have an interactive "FIRST THEN" container! I'm obsessed.


February Fun!

Saturday, January 31, 2015
My February unit is officially uploaded onto my Teachers Pay Teachers store here. 

It is jammed packed with various ELA and math activities that my kiddos LOVE doing! Here is a glimpse of what is included in the product.

Thematic Vocabulary Cards

The vocabulary words included are:
1. Heart
2. Valentine
3. Cupid
4. Cookie
5. Chocolate
6. Roses
7. President
8. White House
9. Flag
10. United States 

February "I see" Book
Have students read the sentence, find the matching picture, and glue it in the box. They can color their book when they are finished. 

"I see" Sentence Building Worksheets

Letter Matching Sheets
Laminate, place on a cookie sheet, and have students match the "heart letter" with a magnetic letter.

Counting Sheets
Laminate or place in a sheet protector and have students place buttons or candy on the white hearts while they practice counting. 

Touch Math Sheets

Laminate, add velcro to the circles, and then have the students practice sticking on heart and flags as they count. 

Touch Math February Book

 Number Matching Sheets

Visual Addition Worksheets

File Folder Activities

You can purchase the unit here. 

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