A whole year

A whole school year has gone by without me posting. I have been super busy with my new position at a new school. My last post said I am saying goodbye to teaching, and in a way I did. I said goodbye to teaching through the motions and decided to teach through love. When you teach with Love, students grow.

A little background on my new position: 
I am at a school that is designed just for middle school and high school students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Everything from extreme ADHD, to Opposition Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Autism, and Schizophrenia. My students are from all 7 districts in the county. We are a public school, but we are more intense than the self-contained classes inside the school system. We are pretty much the “last resort” for these kids and I hate that terminology. My kids are middle school grades 6-8. I love it. I had a difficult year last and it was me, the placement, and it was just not a good fit. Sometimes that just happens its not a good fit,

My Adventure this Year: 
This year has been the best adventure yet. I love my middle school students, there are a lot of supports inlace not just for teachers, but also for students. My students are “different” from most my special education Emotional Disabilities is by far my favorite. I have grown as an educator and a person, I have seen my students grow into young adults, and I have seen them do amazing things this year I have students go from a Beginning Reader level to a 2nd grade level in one school year, where they had never made this much progress before. I am in a school where I can vent, and I have support of the administration, where I don’t have to be perfect, I can make mistakes and I have learned and grown as an educator.


Stay tuned there will be more to come this summer and next school year.


I am saying “Goodbye” to Teaching

So this year has been one of ups and down. Good and bad. Learning and exploring. This year has been a year of reflecting and understanding what my calling is. I am saying “Goodby” to teaching in the traditional sense of the word.

What do I mean when I say I am saying “goodbye” to teaching. Am I leaving the profession? No. Am I looking for jobs outside of teaching? No. I am just going to be teaching in a different way, approach teaching and learning in a different way.

How am I saying goodbye to teaching? I am saying goodbye to worksheets, powerpoints, and teaching for standardized tests. I am taking my classroom, my style of teaching, and passion in a different directions. A direction when shared sounds a little like Project Based Learning(PBL), a little like a flipped classroom, and a little like traditional teaching. My goal is not just to teach. It is to explore the realms of learning, it is to meet students where they are, it is to motivate, evaluate learning, to do different and unique projects, it is to encourage, and most of all it is to foster a love of learning.

My ideas come from my frustration with teaching resource and newer ideas for learning such as interactive notebooks and technology in the classroom. Yes, those are great ideas, but something I learned is interactive notebooks while they can be effective can get just as monotonous and boring as worksheets for students. In my classroom I want us to jump, sing, dance, research, and write. I am not sure about other schools, but here the writing process is not taught. Many of my 5th graders didn’t know the process of publishing your final draft, they could barely brainstorm and then we expect them to write 3 paragraphs really? I have a song for the writing process we sing. The highlight of my 5th grade reading/writing groups week was when we got to write: we started with research and went all the way to typing on the computer, that was by far their favorite. They enjoyed the singing and dancing and websites like flocabulary for social studies. They enjoyed the movement. Teaching needs to allow the students to explore and research and expand their knowledge. If we are working on FDR, and they research him and it links them to the New Deal, let them move onto that, then the TVA, if it is exciting and they want to keep learning do not keep it in a box for this assignment or that, let them explore and learn, in a safe way of course. If we are studying WWII read a diary of Anne Frank, let them talk to a Holocaust survivor. Here in Spartanburg there is a company with part of the Berlin wall, when studying the Cold War I would love to take my kids there, let them see it in person, touch it, feel it, ask questions, research and learn more about it. They need to fully understand what its significance and importance are. Let them talk to the company about why they have part of the wall. The more they learn the better. We have standards, yes but let’s make those the minimum and let the curious nature of our kids shine through, let them be kids and learn and explore.

So next year, whereever I end up being, in a classroom, in a different role. I am letting my students explore, they have guidelines and standards but I am letting them run with it, letting them ask the questions on field trips, letting them write and type. Letting them be in charge of their learning. Let them dance and sing. Let them sit on the floor, let them lay down, let them sit on beanbag chairs, what works for them let them be actively learning. Let theme explore their curiosity.

Teach outside of the box. Don’t fall into the worksheet slump we all fall into, and be creative and innovative. Be who you are and let that shine in your teaching.

Are you going to say goodbye to traditional teaching? Say goodbye to the standard and teach to the exceptional. Make your students and classroom stand out. Make you students keep the desire for learning.


We differentiate in the school, why not in life?

My latest blog post was about growing up with a learning disability and ADHD and how it affects me still to this day. I decided with a little encouragement from a fellow educator (read his blog here: shiftparadigm2011.wordpress.com) to write another post about being an adult with a learning disability and ADHD and why that matters to hiring managers and trainers.

In my ever so eventful short life since college, about 7 years I have worked at a couple of different places, one thing I have noticed is that no-one really differentiates training. Think of it this way, we differentiate learning from K-12, and some college professors do well this also, so why is it that we are so big on differentiating learning and teaching and then we get to the corporate world and its a one size fits all training model? I remember in my University 101 course that we had to take a quiz on our learning style, we had to figure out the way we learned best to be successful. The way I learn and the way professors teach or corporations train do not usually match up.

You may be asking why differentiating training is important? Think of it this way, do we all look the same? Talk the same? Have the same background? No, we don’t so why do we all need one size fits all training in the corporate world? I am a kinesthetic and auditory learner. I have to watch you do something, listen to you talk about it, then have you guide me through it, then allow me to do it on my own. That is how I learn. I have students who are auditory learners. Different people learn in different ways. As a person leading professional development or training at a company, you have to remember, not everyone learns the same way as you. Not everyone is an auditory learner, not everyone learns from looking at powerpoint slides over and over and over again, some have to only hear it, some have to see it, and others have to actually do it.

Differentiation should happen daily in all jobs, in all training in everything we do. I am primarily a hands on learner but if you pull out my notebooks from college, notes from professional development, or church journal you will see I doodle when someone is listening. A lot of time the doodle has to do with the subject matter. If you look at my education classes notebooks a lot of my doodles are pencils, crayons, books, an old school house with a bell tower. This is not because I wasn’t paying attention, but because I was. I have my notes but I listen, pick out the important parts to write down and doodle during the other parts. I am paying attention and hearing and listening to the other parts I just doodle. I have to be having my hand do something while someone is talking to me, it is weird I know but I am mainly hands on so if you are just talking and my hands aren’t moving you’ve completely lost me. Differentiation in the corporate world is important because not everyone is the same. As an adult with a learning disability, I have had to learn how to be actively engaged in professional development and training. I have learned that if I am ever in charge of PD or training what not to do. If I had more training, professional developments, and staff meetings that were differentiated I do not think I would dread them. I need to get up and do it myself, I need you to walk me through the steps of the paperwork, I need you to tell me when I am wrong and show me how to fix it, do not tell me how to fix it.
So all of that to answer this question: Why is differentiation important in the professional and corporate world?

It is important because we all learn differently, we all have different modalities to help us learn, and we all need different things to help us understand. I have a friend who is one of those people who can see something once and she remembers it, that is great, but me give me a print out of the powerpoint, repeat yourself if needed, and remember everyone learns differently even from you.

Some people have learning disabilites and are trying to make it in the corporate world. Me I have issues with executive functioning skills, attention, and processing speeds. What does that all mean. Simple tasks like organization take me long than most (executive functioning) I have to keep a calendar of dates and continuously look at it. Checklists and To Do lists do not work for me. Attention, when it is something I enjoy discussing, researching or reading about I can talk for hours and my attention is great. Talk to me about Green living, conservation, star wars and sci-fi books I can go on and on for hours about them. Talk to me about biographies, historical people, and sports not so much to talk about, unless its about my beloved Cincinatti Bengals, Pittsburg Penguins or LA Kings. My husband gets upset because he wants to talk about baseball, men’s softball, and teams other than my Bengals he doesn’t understand how I can talk about hockey for hours but I cannot listen to him for more than 15 minutes about his interests. It is part of my ADHD I find the things I like and interest me I focus on that and it is hard to break me away, however I work on those things daily. My processing speed disorder hurts me in my profession. I try to work through it, like I said in my last blog, mind and memory games do not work so well. In my job processing speed affects me greatly. It takes me long to form responses to people, I hesitate in what I say because I have to process the information move it around in my head and form my answer. I am not trying to cover things up I am trying to think and process. This has hurt me a lot over the years in the corporate world because during trainings and Professional developments I ask questions, this is to be sure I fully understand the information being relayed to me. It makes me look as though I was not paying attention and generally I am, my career may depend on this information. I have sent my supervisors e-mail asking questions about topics covered in various meetings and this isn’t to sound like I am unaware of what was stated in the meeting but to be sure I fully understand what is being asked for or discussed. As educators we are big on differention of student learning, but do we ever think that each teacher should have meeting information differentiated, that each teacher should recieve different types and amounts of support because each person learns differently?

Differentiation should happen daily not just in schools for students but in life for people in the corportate world. Not just for those with disabilities but for everyone. Everyone desires and deserves to be successful in everything they do.



Growing up with a Learning Disability

It is 1993, in Pennsylvania. An 8-year-old girl is starting 2nd grade, for the 2nd time. This little girl is me. It was difficult at the time to understand why my parents would fight the school, the school board, and others to hold me back. Why would any parent want to hold their child back, when all of their friends are moving forward? Those are the questions I asked myself that August when I was starting back to school at Joe Walker Elementary as a 2nd grader for the 2nd time. As I have gotten older, had my own children, and become a teacher myself I can understand more the decision of my parents and why they did it.
During the 1992-1993 school year in Western Pennsylvania I was in the 2nd grade, even though I did well academically in most subjects I did not do well in conduct. I usually had A’s, B’s, and C’s (in Math) on my report card, however, D’s and below in conduct. My parents making the decision repeat the 2nd grade is the best decision I think they ever made to help me. My parents did not think I was mature enough to move to the 3rd grade.

This advantage of repeating 2nd grade helped me. My parents learned during this school year, that I had ADHD and a learning disability. They went through the process of IEPs/504 plans, accommodations, modifications, and just learning to help a student with a learning disability and ADHD. I adjusted to a daily schedule that included one period of resource for Math. I adjusted to being allowed to have extra time on tests, being allowed to finish my tests in another classroom, among other things. It was an adjustment for all of us, one the whole family, and the school had to learn.

Fast forward to 2000, my freshman year of high school. Now 15 years old and going into the 9th grade. I understood my IEP, I understood the accommodations, I understood what it meant to have a learning disability and ADHD. I knew the difference it made when I had taken my medication for my ADHD and the difference it made when I had not. I understood I did not have to let anyone be aware of my Learning Disability. I understood I was different, the way I learned was different, and at the time, I did not like myself. It was embarrassing to me. In fact, I did not even tell my best friend, as I was so embarrassed. During my freshman year, I had a lot of bumps in the road. I had a teacher call me out in front of 25 other students about my IEP when I approached her about having extended time to complete my math test. I had several teachers who did not think it was fair for me to have accommodations since I did not go to resource in high school except once every couple of weeks to check in on progress. I had several who refused to give me accommodations my first couple weeks of school. That all changed when I realized, yes I am different but I just have to find what works for me. The next several years of high school proved to provide a lot of struggles. I had to take Fundamentals of Math College Prep my Senior year instead of calculus or  Integrated Algebra and Geometry 3 College Prep like most of my friends. I learned that life would be difficult for me. As SAT tests and ACT approached and were taken, I learned that my LD affected me. I saw my dreams of going to college looked like they were going down the drain. My SAT scores were  not what got me into college my ACT scores were. My parents and I studied for many weeks for the ACT and SATs. I had computer programs and everything. I was determined to go to college. My ACT scores got me into college. I had similar struggles in college, learning how to be a student with a learning disability where they professors treat you like adults and not like kids, learning how disability services at the college level works, and learning how accommodations at the college level work. How life with an LD worked. During my Freshman year of college, I was a Nursing Major. That all changed and I decided to change majors to education and to work as a teacher. I wanted to work with students like I was, students who just needed to change how they approached learning, students who were like me.

Now being an adult, I have learned a lot. I have learned how to be organized as ADHD affects my organization. I have learned that I have to read and re-read things. I have learned my processing speed and working memory speeds are lower than others. I try my best not to let these affect me. However, they affect me at home, work, and in life. This is something I work with daily. Processing speed deficits are hard sometimes when in meetings or classes. Especially when they are fast paced, I sometimes have to have someone repeat for me what is said, or clarify something for me. I repeat information back in question format so I can better understand it. I am a verbal person the way I process information is by talking through it. I am not trying to waste time, or come off as not paying attention, I generally do not understand and need additional information or instruction on the topic. I have learned that sometimes it is okay to ask for help. I have learned that I have to be aware of how much I ask for help as if comes off as I am putting the work onto someone else, that is not the case. I have had to adjust and learn how to work with my processing and working memory deficits in life. I have had to read information multiple times. My best friend she is the best, sometimes I have to read information to her, have her decipher it and say it back to me in a different way or explain it. This deficit has hurt me at work. It comes across as if I am not making changes that need to be made, that I am not doing what needs to be done, or that I am putting my work on other people. It takes me longer to learn new things than others. It sometimes takes me longer to make changes on certain items than others, it isn’t because I am not trying it is because of my learning disability. I wish I could change who I am, processing and working memory are hard things to improve upon. I play mind games that are supposed to help with memory and they work some but there isn’t much else to do. I get through my day, do what I must and continue on. I wish more people could experience life with a learning disability. Even if for a day to understand the struggle 20% of American adults struggle with.

Being an adult with a learning disability is not about curing it, but about learning how to live with this. Learning how to be successful at work,  in life, in everything. Learning disabilities affect every aspect of your life. I am not making excuses but I am just saying if you are an adult with ADHD or a learning disability then try your best to make the changes you need to make, ask someone for help when needed, and just love who you are. You cannot change who you are but embrace who you are.


~Adventures in my Classroom.

When you have nothing else to do, you plan

So this week we have been doing Mock standardized testing at our school. That’s great you might say, others may say we test our students too much already. Whatever your thought that is for another day. This last week we have been doing Mock testing. The students get a feel for the types of questions asked, the rigor, and the length of the test, great they need to be prepared. However, my schedule completely changes. I go from having 5 small groups starting at 8:05 and ending at 2:10 Pm to having about 1 or 2, depending on the duration of the test. I have done nothing over the last several days but the plan, copy, print, and create resources to last me a good 2 weeks. I still have a lot more to do, but I will ready when the time comes to be observed, I hope the administration is blown away by my knowledge of the materials, my use of technology, and my rigor and planned activities. So this short blog post is about when you have nothing else to do for 3 out of you 5 group times what do you do (besides catch up on paperwork, which took all of 1 1/2 days) You plan. Plan like you never planned before. It puts a new outlook and a new spin on the way you approach the next unit and lessons you are about to teach.

All of that to say this. When given the opportunity do not complain about not having groups or classes, look at is as a blessing, and use your time wisely.


~Have a Great Day
-Adventures in my classroom/teachersamantha2

New and Improved

After Christmas break and a not so favorable, yet not so horrible review of my first-semester teacher at this new school, that is was time for a change. I am the new and improved teacher. Why did it take a whole semester you might ask. I can explain, I was set in my ways, I was taking what other suggested and instead of doing it exactly their way I was making it mine, sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

Over Christmas break, I thought about going back to school, changing careers, changing my life dream and ambitions. I researched graduate schools, technical schools, community colleges, career choices, and financial aid. I looked into what profession I might like, do companies hire people with education degrees who decide teaching isn’t for them anymore, and how to get a job with one of those companies. I looked into many options however, I realized my dream, my desire, my heart is in teaching. Do I dread getting out of bed some days? Yes, but who doesn’t? Do I hate the fact that sometimes I cannot muster the energy to do a specific activity with certain groups, yes but I do it anyway.

I have made anchor charts, pinned a million things on Pinterest, but most importantly I changed my attitude. My attitude is what makes the difference. If I have a positive attitude then I am going to want to make changes in my classroom, in my teaching style, and I am going to want to grow. I had forgotten that. The beginning of the year was rough for me and one thing I kept saying was “You have to grow, everyone grows and changes all the time and when you forget that you hurt yourself”. Well, what had I stopped doing? What had I forgotten to do? I had forgotten to grow, I got stuck in a routine that worked, but I wasn’t happy in. So today is a new day, with a new teacher, and a new outlook on my career. It is not just a job it is a lifestyle. When you are a teacher it isn’t just your job, it is your lifestyle. Once a teacher, always a teacher. I have to remember that, I have to remember to change and adapt for each student, each group, and for myself.

So on that long note, I want to close with this song I made up to help my students when reading words with that pesky silent e.

(To the tune of Silent Night)
Silent e, helps me read
e jumps over the consonant
The vowel before says its name
Silent e, oh, Silent e, Silent e


Keep Calm and Teach On,
~Adventures in my Classroom


Dance to the beat of different Drum.

Sometimes I think my fellow teachers look at me like I have three heads. Sometimes I know my students do, and other times I think “you are crazy.” I am not your normal teacher, I do things differently. I use websites and resources a lot of teachers and schools do not use.  I just march to beat of my own drum. It is a very different drum than what a lot of people are used to but it is successful, it works, and my students are learning.

My methods may be a little out there, but hey I teach resource sometimes I have to. As a new teacher I am always afraid when my superiors walk in for an observation. I am worried they will not like the way I approach teaching. My supervisors are old school. Students in their chairs everyone looking at the teacher all the time. In my classroom, students can stand, they have to stay in their area, but can stand nonetheless. Students get up and we do brain breaks, we have movements to help us learn new concepts, I am always worried to do these things because you never know what they will think. Over last semester I learned just march to the beat of my drum whether or not I am being observed or not. Let the students stand, let them sit on the floor with a clip board, do the brain breaks as normal. Be the teacher I am.


As an educator I have to stay true to me. My personality comes out in my teaching style. I am bubbly, loud, outgoing, and outspoken. I have learned do not change who you are to fit your school and supervisor. Make who you are work for you, use your strengths to be creative and do not be the “average teacher” be the “outrageous, crazy, creative teacher.” Be the teacher you always wanted to have. That is how I look at my job, I have to be the best teachers I ever had (all of them) and take them mold them into one person and run with it. Sometimes to stay motivated I ask myself am I being like the best teacher I ever had, or the one I thought was the worst. More times than not I am not being the best teachers I ever had all rolled into one, I am being the most boring and worst teacher I ever had. I decided that had to change and to look to others for inspiration and insight. Use others to talk with and bounce ideas off of. If you do not have that at school or just want more ideas from more people do what I do, follow amazing teachers and education groups on Social Media like twitter and facebook. You would be surprised the insight, ideas, and encouragement you can get from fellow educators you have never met. I have had a much better year this year because of the amazing educators I follow on twitter.

What Teaching Taught Me

Wow it has been forever since I have written a post. Life has gotten in the way. Work, Children, House, Husband you know it is all in the way of having free time. 11 school days left before Christmas break and I am updating. My post tonight is about what I have learned from teaching this year.

Last year was a whirlwind doing self-contained 7th and 8th grade. I learned a lot about myself and teaching last year this year I have too.

This year I have learned more about myself and teaching than I have learned in the past 6 years since Graduating.
Myself: I have learned that my heart is bigger than I ever expected. Not only do I worry about my 3 beauties at home and my husband I have 28 other children I care about and worry about. I am working in a school with high expectations and I now know I can do a lot more than I ever gave myself credit for, I am capable of pushing myself further than ever thought possible. I have learned that what I thought I was doing with pushing the limits was nowhere close to the limit I have. I have learned to trust myself, be myself, and take what people say and run with their ideas, I have learned I don’t know as much as I thought but I can keep learning.

Students: My students have taught me I am more than just a teacher. I am someone they confide in someone that they rely on, and someone they know cares and wants the best for them. They have taught me to have patience, to be stricter, to have higher expectations. I have learned that even though my students know they are in my class that I can make them feel like they are the smartest kids in the world and the coolest kids I know. I help them feel better about what they can do, and not focus on what they can’t do. My students have taught me to have fun while teaching, to think outside the box, and to just be me when teaching.


If I don’t make a change in the lives of my students, if I decide one day not to teach, one thing is for sure this year and this school has taught me more than I ever thought I could learn. It has taught me to believe in myself more and that I can make kids feel better about themselves. When I have a good attitude, even on a bad day, it can change their outlook and their engagement level. They expect more of themselves than they think they can do, they are amazing and I will cherish each wonderful experience I have at this school this year.


~Adventures in my Classroom

No, it’s the help you do stuff lab…..

So I have decorated my classroom even more. Thanks to teachers pay teachers, and my lovely friends at the UPS store I was able to make a schedule for the classroom that matches my travel theme. I spent a lot of time of parent teacher conference day working on my classroom and paperwork. You know typical teacher work day stuff. I am so excited about the fact that my students enjoyed the Travel theme Manuscript and cursive alphabet hanging up in my classroom. So back to parent teacher conference day. I think I had the best conference day I have had thus far. It was great parents were receptive, teachers were receptive, it was an all around great experience.

You know they say that children say the darnedest things, well it is true let me tell you why. Okay so sitiing in my room on Friday during parent teacher conferences I heard a sibling of one of the students at the school (whom I do not service) say “Is this the computer lab?” The student said “No, that’s the help people with stuff lab.” The help people with stuff lab……I like that much better than resource or academic skills, or academic support do you think I can change my class name to the help people with stuff lab? I like that, I think my students would not be so embarrassed to say I go to the help people lab, instead of academic support or resource. It just sounds like a cooler name for my class. I needed that laugh, it made my day and I am still smiling about it 3 days later.

I needed some encouragement today and you know, as much as I try to encourage others sometimes the one doing the encouraging needs it. I was encouraged today by several staff members and teachers. They did not know I was having a bad day, but they just knew. Sometimes that is the biggest blessing.

I have a lot of things to do this evening for school tomorrow. I will be back soon with adventures from my classroom, encouragment, and just advice as a teacher.

~Adventures in my classsroom

My Heartbreaks <3

     So you know when you are at school and your going about your pre-student daily routine, and you hear that little ding? That ding that says, “Hey you received an e-mail” Yeah you know the ones you get 20 times a day. You may even hear them in your sleep like I do sometimes. Once I was done preparing everything and I sat down to finally check all those e-mail notifications. I got the e-mail that I have heard about, that I knew was coming, the one no one can truly prepare you for.

     The one that says your student **Ken**(name changed for privacy) was removed from his home the night before and is now in the custody of the state. That Ken is now staying at the shelter. My heart stopped for a minute. Sweet, hardworking, reliable Ken, he was now in the custody of the state? How do you process this? What do you do? How do you talk to this student? What do I say to him? It was, just a crazy day. My poor student when he came into my room asked if he could talk to me, so I had one other student in there and he went to get some water, then my student starts crying. How do I handle this, what do I say to him? They do not cover this in your education classes. I mean I was not prepared for this at all. Not only was I not told how to handle this from my end, I do not know what to say to the student. I ended up hugging this student, telling him his teachers care about him, and reminding him we are here for him, and it will get better.

    So I got home today and I was emotionally drained. I crashed, I cried, I prayed. I did not know what else to do. My heart is hurting and I feel for this student who in one day, his life has been changed completely upside down. I am going to try to give him as much normalcy as I can. since he is only with me for 2- 50 minute periods a day I don’t know how to that.

     What I am bringing away from this: just be there for our students, be there as long as I can, do the best I can and just remember I cannot fix everything and sometimes there are going to be things I cannot do to help. In this situation there was/is nothing outside of school I can do to help him. My heart breaks for my sweet student but I know that is taken care of where he is now, and I just hope he is happy and safe. My students are my children and I care about them and their well being, no one wants there students to struggle.

My advice to other teachers: Never get so jaded that  you stop caring for and loving on your students. Do not ever act as though you do not care for them, and let them know you are always there. Even if you feel sometimes as though you are swamped and too busy for your students. If they come to you its because they trust you, they respect you,, and it is something they want you to know. Do not push them aside and show them they matter.

Teach, Love, and Counsel,
~Adventures in my classroom