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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beginning of School - New "nick name"

Friday was our first full day of school for 2014-15 school year. All of the students were apprehensive, excited, overly stimulated as well as cautious. There were new teachers, teachers in different classrooms, new schedules, just new stuff all around. Mr. Don's Scholars was no exception to the angst beginning to fill the room. We are a group of special needs students, so any extra anxiety is sometimes difficult for my students. 

As is customary, we have an activity where I use a mirror and we call it "Get To Know Me, Get To Know You". It involves observations about others and yourself, then thinking, talking, writing and finally drawing - each other. 

It was going well - the students would look at each other and write down the color of their buddy's shirt, the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, short or long; pants, skirt, or shorts; then they would write a sentence about their buddy. Next they would look in the mirror and do the same exercise about themselves. Finally we would compare and contrast our findings.

As the time progressed, I was helping one of my students with autism who has difficulty making eye contact. So we were practicing. She would look at my hair (short); she would look at my shirt (red); she would say "pants" - when I asked about the color of my eyes she looked directly into them. I was so pleased that she held the gaze as long as she did so I must have put a big smile on my face. Slowly her hand moved toward my face and she lightly touched my cheek, then proceeded to shout in a loud, cackling voice, "Chubby cheeks! Chubby Cheeks!" -- to which I laughed out loud, which in turn made her laugh and then say it even louder and more frequently.  Then all of the students were repeating the phrase and we were all laughing and enjoying the moment of bonding as a class. 

After returning from lunch, she looked at me directly again, then said very softly, "Chubby Cheeks." To which I replied in the same soft tone, "Yes. Chubby Cheeks with blue eyes." She pressed in a little closer and said ever so gently - "Ooo, bal-lu-u eyes. I have bar-row-n eyes." I nodded, we knuckled bumped and proceeded to write the word "blue" in the space for her buddy's eye color. 

"Chubby Cheeks" is ready for the year. It is going the be the best year ever!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Organization is Key!

Each year I find myself struggling organize my students' schedules and to make reminders of who will be transitioning when. With eight full time students of different grade levels and four additional push-in students need differentiation, knowing who will be coming and going and where has been difficult to remember - especially when we are so engaged that we loose track of time and suddenly it's time to go to music and we still need everyone to go to the bathroom before we escort them to an outside classroom...Not this year!

This year I created a Google Account with calendar reminders to send text message reminders to me and my assistant. We then changed our notifications to be a different sound when those messages arrive.

With 5 minute warnings of what schedule is coming due, we can be more organized. We can also change the warning time to send the reminder as we move through this first few weeks so that we will have our students in the right place at the right time.

With the unlimited text packages for our mobile phones this seems to be a great way for us to use a reminder. Each week or each day we can delete those messages from our phones since they are coming from one specific account and not the other reminder messages I get from "Remind 101" or "Remember the Milk" (my wife sends me messages on RTM all the time!).

The additional benefit? Now I can set up the classroom calendar to be shared with parents, attached documents to share with parents, and even create a simple website (even with the student's helping me) to display work product, important images and other non-student specific items.

If organization is the key to my sanity, then I'm unlocked and ready for the 2014-15 school year!!