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As many of you know, I have already completed and published Educating Your 4th Grader (available on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086J1CN4S).

I am finishing up and soon to publish Educating Your 5th Grader (available for pre order on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086JN6G4Q).

Now it’s time to decide, what age is next?!? Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd? Comment to cast your vote.

I’ll be accepting votes until 6:00pm on April 8th.
The Educating You xx Grader series is meant to act as a school support to children and parents as we navigate this unique situation with Covid 19. Based off school standards and containing age appropriate schedules and lesson plans, my goal is to empower every family to complete their learning outside the classroom.

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Last year I did a space unit with my pre-k students. We did this art project after I taught them about stellar evolution– I talked about how nebulae are clouds of dust and gas that go on to create stars, and how galaxies are collections of millions of stars. I reminded them that the sun is a star, and all of the planets in our solar system orbit it. Then I let them design their own nebulae to take home in little jars. I’ve found it very helpful to use art to help connect difficult concepts with the process of making and doing. When kids are involved in their learning in a hands-on way, they are much more likely to remember and relate to the information that they encounter. It’s one thing to talk about exoplanets and hope that four-year-olds can remember what those even are; it’s another thing entirely to allow them to design their own exoplanets, and let them imagine that a world exists out there like the one they’ve dreamt up.

After this “nebula in a jar” project, I still had kids talking to me about stellar formation months later. Glitter is my favorite instructional tool. :-)

Oh, and that principle about how if you can’t explain it to a small child, then you don’t fully understand it yourself? In my experience, that holds true. Kids can understand conceptual physics so long as you understand conceptual physics. And children so often surpass our expectations for them, so long as we treat them as competent learners.

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Those of you doing online classes or even teaching one right now, can you tell me what it is like. Are you enjoying it? Is virtual learning something you feel schools should use more often? Is it better than traditional class?

I need to write an essay about technology and education, and figured I should take advantage of the mass virtual learning that is happening right now!

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OH.

It’s the lack of kids.

I guess we all need to feel needed, I think that’s how this goes. Or maybe I’m just selfish, idk.

But without my kids’ faces lighting up every morning, without them coming up to ask for hugs, without them wandering over to tell some goofy story…I feel lost.

I feel unnecessary, extra, replaceable, expendable. It’s easier to trick the depression brain when I see them every day, when I can put evidence right in front of it and say “look! You’re lying!”

Now, without that evidence, I’m left adrift. I know the depression brain is lying, but I can’t find the evidence. Because the truth is that I’m an introvert, a loner, independent. I’ve set myself up that way and usually its okay. I have friends who are there but who also respect my space and give me room and I love that. I truly do.

I think it’s also a deeper need with my kids. They need an adult to listen to them. They need to see an adult be goofy. They need someone to tell them middle school sucks but you’ll get through it. They need me.

My friends…yall like me. (Idk why sometimes but apparently you do. ❤) But no one needs me the way my kids do, and depression brain knows it.

Anyhow. I’m not expecting anyone to try and fix this. It’s not your job. I’m just processing and I process best by writing it down. It’s helpful to recognize it so I can try and combat it.

But like. I miss my kids. I miss being needed. I want…I wanna go back to school now.

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I worked as a Special Education Teacher of an Adult Behavior Intensified program. Most my students ranged in academic levels but being that most the students were nonverbal or academically incapable or graduating we focused primarily on functional academics.

This population goes often unnoticed, unappreciated, and unfunded. Primarily I find the attitudes towards my students very negative. My hypothesis is this: because the focus of school primarily is academics, and my students do not participate “academically,” they are deemed unmarketable.

Is that to say that they are not learning? Absolutely not. My students are learning vocational skills, personal hygiene, leisure skills! (YES! Learning how to enjoy time doing fun appropriate things!) But most importantly, because I’m working within Behavioral Intensified Program, we focus on communication skills, nonverbal / verbal means of communicating especially during times of extreme behavior.

I modeled my classroom always with the goal to guide my students through their negative behaviors. Boy, I was successful as heck. Charting their behaviors and watching those of: self injurious, property destructive, and aggression fade away. And you know what happened? New beautiful skills flourished. Nonverbal social skills abrupted, creating an excitement for new goals to be brought to the forefront.

I advocated too loudly: for an empty classroom down the hall with a bathroom for my student to learn to use the facilities independently. It had a kitchen to practice actual cooking, and a little room perfect for a sensory room! It had a fire escape! Running water! Everything that our old room lacked.

I wrote a letter referencing my students goals and specifying how the space accommodated everything so efficiently, effortlessly, without a cost to anyone. I made it 100% STUDENT CENTERED, but I learned that this is not how most programs are ran. But boom! It was mine.

Time and time I was exposed to the very little care, knowledge, and support administration has to offer. It was pinching and saving money here, making uninformed calls, shuffling students around like cattle. The students needs, especially MY students’ needs went unaccounted for.

Because I was a loud advocator, I was let go. Shadily.

My heart broke leaving my students. My heart breaks every day rehearing my principal reference my student as a “head count”. My heart breaks for the future students, maybe nonverbal like mine, shuffled into a system that’s not fighting for them. And those of us willing to speak loudly for them are tossed aside, our words muffled and our work ceased.

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Nobody can ever know how many times i cried in silence, how many times i have been strong when everything was falling apart, how many times i faked smile and how many times i pretended to be fine when nothing was alright. Noone can ever know the real me. It’s just my pillow that counted the number of teardrops i shared with it and my heart that knows all the fears, insecurities, anxieties, happiness, sorrow i go through all day.

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I went to the grocery store yesterday evening to stock up for another few weeks. The fact that the cashier working behind the newly installed plexiglass was one of our twelfth graders is something I have several feelings about… Mostly, I hate that I couldn’t be reassuring- like, that’s how teachers are supposed to be, right?- because I was scared to be there. I’m high risk for the virus because I’ve got the stupid lungs, and I’m an anxious soul on a good day… All I could do was acknowledge that we’re all going through this, and it’s scary, and it frequently sucks…

I’ve done two things this week that have been good for me, though. First of all, I stopped setting my alarm because waking up naturally is better than jolting awake every morning. I also set my phone on vibrate because I was jumping whenever it rang or beeped for a text. That’s a residual thing from when my brother went to war. So… fewer loud, startling noises. It’s minor, but it’s also helpful. 

I’ve got a routine going for my school hours, too: I check in with my department on our group chat (usually with memes and gifs…) first, then take care of any emails I need to take care of. After that, there’s a break, so I grab breakfast and take a quick shower. Then it’s “class time,” and I’m either live on camera with students, or- more often- checking in via email, chat, Remind, etc… I break for lunch between classes, and check the news. After my classes are over, I pend the rest of afternoon looking over any work that’s been submitted, documenting my contacts with students and parents, attending meetings, that kind of thing. I also give students individualized help as needed. The day ends at 3:00, but I usually work longer than that, making sure everything’s set for the next day. When I finish, I talk a walk unless the weather’s totally gross. That’s basically my day. 

My seniors are learning about the Civil Rights Movement, and today was all about the March on Washington; they had some readings to do, plus a video to watch, and then I explained the efforts in Congress in 1963 and 1964 to get the Civil Rights Act passed. More on that in future classes. My ninth graders are learning about the Afghanistan War, and today was all about the initial years of the war: why we invaded, what we did, what problems arose… More on that in future classes, too!

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