Personalizing September: 3 Tips to Add Style and Flair to Your School Routine

Starting back to school can be a time of joy or madness. No matter what age, grade, subject, specialty or location you teach in, there are going to be pluses and minuses….already thinking about data collection! I think some things are out of a teachers control and those are the hardest to mentally manage, but the things we can control are where a shift in focus should occur to turn sweaty, stressy September into sunny, satisfying September.

The Schedule

As an itinerant this is my madness. Getting multiple schedules and locations to all perfectly come together can be beyond overwhelming. This part of is often the hardest, non-teaching aspect of my job. Remembering to give myself grace and permission to voice my limits is difficult, but I am not robo-teacher and I need to build a schedule that is balanced. A hungry teacher is never a good thing.

I think if you are a classroom teacher and I once upon a time was, the schedule is still a challenge. Doing anything new is often difficult and filled with challenges. Add in the personalities, staff and children, of who we encounter for the day and it can be a very interesting situation. Remember you are not super human…everything will shake out and 10 months can fly by!

TIP: Print or create schedule(s) that are visually appealing. Use colors and images to enhance what you are looking at. Planbooks too! We look at these every day.

This is my color palette for this year. I need peaceful and pretty.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Student-Self-Monitoring-and-Data-Collection-Sticky-Notes-4337240

A pretty mess is better than a dull mess!

Work Space

Classroom teachers are very busy before the start of the year making their classrooms aka “second homes” a place to call home. Beautiful bulletin boards, reading corners, words of inspiration, labels, furniture arrangements and decorated doors….all hard work. As an itinerant I look forward to walking the halls and seeing all the themes and ideas-the scent of fresh lamination!

I miss these things sometimes.

As a seasoned itinerant I have found a few places I can put my decorating skills to work. Granted this is limited and not the norm, but I try. I try to also make my classroom on my back also pretty and engaging. If you only have your bag that’s ok you can still let your personality and taste shine.

TIP: Choose a theme or color you can infuse into your folders, notebooks, post it notes, tools (pencils, pens, scissors).

These can be used to decorate an area where I have space. I try to make it feel like a solid space.

Materials and Resources

I am always looking for new ideas to make lessons and communication materials fresh. I am a huge fan of cute clip art and printing in color. My hope is the color and clipart will make my resources more attractive to my students. I am printing for one student at a time. I understand color copies are not always fiscally possible for a class of 20+ children, but this is where I say print on colored paper. I am doing this more and more. I especially use bright colored paper to send home information for families.

I want my information to pop out of a folder.

TIP: Choose a signature colored paper, colored ink or graphic to send home information, so families can quickly and easily identify your things.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hearing-Advocacy-Worksheets-4685240
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mini-Notes-Data-Collection-Charts-and-Positive-Reinforcement-Awards-4707126
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Seasonal-Newsletters-Bundle-Editable-Version-4518283
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Parent-Teacher-Notes-4229926

Color Me Happy

I know I am going to enjoy looking at all my pastel pretty this year. Sometimes I go for the brights, but I am feeling the watercolor vibes. Maybe it is all the yoga and self reflection, but I need serenity as I am running from place to place. Hopefully looking at a serene color plate will trick my brain….and keep me zen….fingers crossed!

However you choose to color your world, add personality or spice things up I wish you a sassy September.

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The Perfect Itinerant Teacher Bag: So Much Searching

I have had many, many teaching bags over the years. With each purchase there is a hope and a dream that this will be “the one”. I get excited when I think I have found it…the bag that will end all bags, but sadly I keep searching….and spending.

Is it me? Is it the bag? Is it a bag addiction?

Messenger Bag

Almost looks new

This was the first style of bag I started with. I loved it in college, so I bought a new one when I started my itinerant position. I wanted to look put together and not like a student. It was not a good choice. It could not hold enough. Depending on my caseload I might need bigger items and this was definitely the case years ago, so then I was carrying two bags! Who likes that?! I know some itinerants have to and I get the two bag need, but I needed to carry smarter. I had to kill this messenger!

Pros:

  • Light weight
  • Wipes clean
  • I hoard and carry less
  • Pockets for organization
  • I look professional

Cons:

  • Not enough room to do my job

Tote Bag

Vera Bradley, thirty-one, Lug

I probably have the most of this style. I was going to take a whole group photo, but I think that might be incredibly embarrassing and make me cry over the dollars spent in pursuit of happiness. I have some really cute ones and I will go back to them to spice up my day to day momsibilities or carry extra stuff when needed, but a couple of these haven’t seen my back seat or a school in years.

Pros:

  • Depending on size- holds a lot
  • I really like ones with outer pockets
  • Some are machine washable
  • Durable
  • I look like a teacher…not a student

Cons:

  • Some are and endless pit
  • I load them to heavy
  • Open tops- rain or snow
  • Shoulder pain

Rolling Bag

Amazon special

I know this style of bag is used by so many itinerant teachers. We have a lot of stuff sometimes and carrying the world on your back hurts, so why not roll it behind you. I tried this bag. It has pros and cons for me. I have a nickname for the rollie-The Rolling Bag of Shame. I am very aware that this is not a cute one or high end version, but it has wheels and that was my experiment. After a good, solid try it rolled right down to the basement.

Pros:

  • I am not carrying the world on my back
  • I can fit a lot in it
  • I can move about quickly

Cons:

  • Loud-I am so noticeable
  • Gross in the snow
  • Stairs are difficult, so I have to carry
  • Lifting it into the car
  • Zero organization- it is like a pit

Backpack

Never going to have a sensible black bag

This is my latest bag I am using, even though I told myself I would never get a backpack. I was totally against looking like my students.

As I have worked as itinerant for over a decade I have thankfully made friends. With these connections I have been able to leave things at my different schools. This has made life considerably easier, so my need for a huge bag has decreased.

This past school year I was using a large tote with zero issue until I was off balance on some ice this winter. I prefer to travel and work without crutches, so I decided to cave and get a backpack. I went to Vera Bradley and found a pattern that I thought would be cute all year and hide dirt-it goes on the floor beside me a lot.

So far so good.

Getting older sometimes means doing things for safety and health, so backpack it is!

Pros:

  • It is a fun pattern
  • Light weight when empty
  • Easy to carry
  • Pockets and organization are plentiful
  • Washable
  • I can maneuver quickly
  • Adjustable over winter coats

Cons:

  • I get mistaken for a student….from behind
  • I load it heavy at times-ouch

So far this is the winner. Never say NEVER.

Also, I can purchase matching accessories for this particular backpack. I love that…of course!

The search is over….for now. If I end up finding “the one”, yet again, I will update this post or add it to my Buffet page.

If your a professional bag lady like me drop me a line. I would love to know what works for you!!!

Sunday Funday: Sunshine and Sunflowers

Sometimes just a sprinkle of sunshine can make for an uplifting and beautiful day. We went to a local sunflower field to take some pictures and soak up the last days of summer vacation.

  • The weather was perfect.
  • The bees were busy.
  • The flowers were in full bloom.
  • The company was perfect.

What is it about sunflowers?

Don’t they just make you smile!?

Told you so!

We probably spent about an hour or two walking the field, sipping lemonade and taking it all in. There was a small craft show. I love looking at things people crafted with love and passion.

Baby Gift….the woman who made it was lovely.

This was a splendid, suntastic family day!

Blessed

I am holding onto the last days of summer vacation…before school starts. This time of year is always a mix of emotions, but standing in the middle of a field of sunshine and busy bees…it was nothing but happiness.

This is how I Sunday

It was sort of awesome to see all the bees hard at work. One would think standing in a buzzing field might be scary or concerning, but they wanted nothing to do with us. I’ve never been stung, so I am always mindful, but these busy bees were working overtime.

Buzzzzzzz

The bees were busy, but we were all about the funshine!

I suggested our mini adventure, but then almost changed my mind and thought I would work on some back to school projects. I’m so glad I didn’t. The projects will get done, eventually, but the memories made and time we spent as a family is irreplaceable.

My People

Doing small things can be so huge for the soul.

This Girl!!!

If you regularly read my blog posts you know I try to listen to my inner voice…go with my gut. Today it said sunshine and sunflowers. I’m glad I listened.

Wander…..with the ones you love.

Explore your own “backyard”.

Make memories.

#selfcare

Climbing Mt. Acceptance: Making Peace with Myself on the Way Up

I recently was on a lovely family vacation. We traveled to the Adirondacks for some mountain air and togetherness. All of these things happened and more. It was just what we needed. One of the days started out beautifully. We hiked and hiked and hiked. My husband had seen online there was a covered bridge near by that he wanted to check out, so we drove a short distance to find this restored wooden bridge.

Everything was picture perfect. We decided to climb down to the water. It was a day full of nature and adventure. We took some fun pictures and were just about ready to head back to town, when I decided I was going to push myself out of my comfort zone and be brave.

Back story- I am not the biggest animal or bug lover. I appreciate, I respect, I even think are cute, but from a distance. I have tried over the years to get over these fears- even therapy. Some situations have improved with age and effort, but then I have moments when irrational fear puts me into a full panic attack.

So, with being in all of this glorious nature, I felt like I could do something that would test my fears and hopefully help me get over them or at least one. I decide to take off my shoes and socks and stand in running, fresh water. This was shocking to my husband, but I was feeling good. Feeling like I can do this. He took a few pictures. I look happy. He warned me it could slippery, which I was fully aware of and accepting.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I would get wet…oh well. Wet pants is no big deal. As I am about to step to dry land…I slip.

I fall into the water.

I am laughing.

Before the fall

I get up and look down at my self. Everything seems ok. I wipe my back side and then see my hands covered in this small, rice sized black stuff. At first I think it must be river dirt, or plant debris.

It moves.

I panic….of course. I rinse my hands in the water…struggling to get it off. Then all I can think of is what is all over my ass.

I start to hyperventilate. Not for dramatic effect-pure horror.

I run and climb back up into the parking lot, to the car, opening the back and procede to rip off my creepy, crawly, yoga pants.

Yep! Pantsless in a parking lot. Thank goodness I had cute, black underwear on. I also had this foresight to take a beach towel that morning and pop it into the car. I was thinking this might be needed for our daughter-never imaging I would be driving back to our hotel wrapped in a Hello Kitty beach towel.

On the drive back I calmed down, caught my breath and started to do what I always do when I recover from a freak out.

I apologize. I want everyone I upset to be fine. I don’t want my irrational fear ruining the day. I am proud of myself for not crying.

We get back to our hotel quickly and I parade through the lobby in my pink, kitty, towel sarong. No worries. A quick shower to wash away the panic attack and let’s go on with our family fun. Thankfully I have a wonderful husband who can stand at the sink and rinse the crawlies off your favorite pants and not make one comment to make you feel incredibly stupid. Not even “I told you it was slippery”.

The day was not done. Our plan was to get in some mini golf and that is just what we did. It was perfect. While we were there we ended up talking to a man working the counter. He was a ray of sunshine and positivity. We had the polite, small chit chat you do when on vacation, but then an extra layer was added. He shared a bit about himself and how he landed in the Adirondacks. My take away was his soul needed whatever the mountains could give him. He was choosing happy. This got me thinking about my earlier experience.

What was the universe trying to teach me?

Why do I have to get over these fears?

Do you have to be brave and push yourself?

Who are you doing it for? You? Or others?

On our drive to Whiteface Mountain, the next day, I was still thinking about these questions. Why? Why couldn’t I have just gotten wet? What is the take away ?

We parked and I was ready to enjoy the day. I climbed that mountain. Fearless. Not a worry. I loved it. I can do it without a second of hesitation. When I got to the top I looked out on everything- green and magnificent and was happy. There are people that can not and will not climb ragged rocks and stand on top of a mountain, but I CAN.

I have decided that it is okay to be scared. Fear can stop you from doing stupid things. I know it can hold you back too. So many quotes out there, but I think sometimes it is ok. I am not going to shut myself up in a bubble and never try to stretch myself outside my comfort zone, but I am not going to force myself to do things that are too much or ignore my inner voice.

I am not going to apologize for my perceived short comings.

I do many things everyday that scare other people.

  • I drive over bridges
  • I can see a spider in my house
  • I can tend to an injury
  • I can climb a mountain

I can do a lot of things!

I think my universal take away is it is OK to have fears. It is okay to say no. It is okay to find your happy and embrace what you can-for right now.

My fear of many living things will have a downside, but I am okay with that. I am probably never going to a petting zoo, snorkeling or letting a hawk land on my hand. I am good with all of that. As long as my people enjoy life and they do what makes them happy I am good sitting out. I keep trying and every time something puts me into a panic. And I think the biggest thing I realized is I am not trying for me, I am pushing myself to make others happy. I have zero desire (not stemming from fear) to swim with the fishes!

I am accepting these limitations. I have hope I might not always have them and I will still think about trying because I believe in personal growth, but only if I want to. If not-no apologizes needed. I accept that this is me.

Accept yourself….all of the things

Find yourself….enjoy the journey

Listen to yourself….your inner voice is probably right

Love yourself….let your quirky light shine

Think of all of your “CAN DOs”!!!

Drop me a line. I would love to hear from you.

Staying Connected To Your Tribe

Schools out for summer!

Every summer I typically have a project to do list or goals. The school year gets too hectic and I put many things off in my head for summer vacation. This summer was no different except for the things to catch up with were my peeps.

I decided that projects can wait, but friendships can not.

This connecting looks very different for each friend, but I have made a solid effort to make time. Make new memories. Make myself a priority.

Texting

We all do it. It works. It is fast.

No matter how far a friend is-a text is a text. I love that out of state peeps seem like they are in my backyard. Getting pictures via text always makes me happy and allows me to feel part of someone’s world. Seeing shoes she is shopping for, vacation pictures or what’s for dinner gives me the feeling of having a backstage pass. Sometimes this is all we have to stay connected to those far away. For as much as I would like to toss my phone, some days, I am grateful for the speed and efficiency it provides. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Bitmoji

Who ever invented these is brilliant. I love getting and giving. They are typically funny and to the point. No need for words here. I love when I receive one and a friend has tweaked the outfit or hair. I change mine with the seasons. Do you change yours up?

Phone Calls

This was my teenage jam. The phone! As a busy working mom not so much, but I have a few friends that this is the way we stay connected. It is usually in the car. Busy working moms multitask. If the backseat is full the conversation is PG, but if it is empty let the colorful adjectives fly free. Filter free baby!

Somedays the conversation still needs to happen in the driveway or an extra lap around the block…because if you get out of the car you might as well just hang up. And sometimes these driveway chats are long and necessary.

Email

Back in the day I loved seeing what messages were in my daily inbox. Long ones. Short ones. This was really all I had before texting. I love it when I get one now that isn’t something I should buy or a bill pay reminder.

A new friend crafted the most thoughtful and supportive email this summer. She was just being her lovely self, but that email made my week. When your in a funk sometimes the smallest kindness can pull you out. Set you back on your path. Email is often deeper than a text. I think the layout and size allow for more, so you often get more words and thoughts than from a text.

Something to consider if you have alot to say or share.

Meet Ups

These are obviously my favorite. Nothing beats seeing a beloved friend. They don’t need to be complicated or fancy. Just spending time is enough.

Some of my favorite ways to hang:

  • Tea/Coffee
  • Manicure/Pedicure
  • A walk
  • Someone’s house
  • Shopping
  • Lunch
  • Brunch
  • Crafting/Creating
  • Yoga

Sometimes they are a group or one on one. However they happen I know I need this time. Hanging with my gal pals does something for the soul.

I love family time, but there is something special that happens when you just get to be yourself for a bit, not mom the multitasker or super wife.

However you keep up with your tribe, keep doing it.

This is necessary to be the best you.

If you lost a member along the way, reconnect if it is worth it.

Sometimes it happens and sometimes it was ment to happen. We all evolve.

Be brave and make a new friend.

This can be scary at any age, but if you see someone you think might be an awesome addition to your tribe….say Hi!

If you feel like dropping me a line or an email-awesome!

Improving Student Conversation Skills: Whole Group and Small Group

As a teacher of the deaf I am always thinking about communication and language. My hearing impaired students have varying levels of need. One thing I have observed is how they will not always join in discussion groups.

I am very aware that is also true of their hearing peers. Sharing an idea, answer or opinion can seem risky. Many people don’t like to step outside their comfort zone. This commonality got me thinking…

What can I do or create to help facilitate teacher supported group discussions???

How can the “talkers” share less?

Limit opportunities to share in a discussion.

How can the “non-talkers” share more?

Provide an expectation for joining in.

Inspiration

I recently attended a workshop and the presenter was sharing ideas about student engagement. Many of these methods and techniques are difficult to use in a one to one session, but I tried to take something away. The presenter shared the idea of using something…any manipulative for turn taking in group discussions.

Light Bulb Moment

I love the idea of a visual, tangible item representing a turn, but the thing/object has to be simple, not a toy and easy for teachers to use. No teacher I know wants a distraction, but most love cute or visually appealing tools and resources. Affordable too!

Chat Chips

I got to work creating something I think teachers and therapists can use in their large and small group discussions. These Chat Chips allow for balanced conversation. Each student has to “chip into” the discussion-however many times the teacher determines. There are rules and guidelines established by the teacher.

Talking is great, but students need support to effectively participate. A great group discussion looks like everyone sharing; not one or two voices dominating the conversation, with other voices purposely silent. Creating a fair and balanced dynamic can be difficult and takes practice.

Teacher Driven….Balanced Discussion

These Chat Chips are a positive way for all students to let their voice shine.

Teacher Supported…Balanced Conversation

Prep for Success

Print and Copy

Laminate for Durability

Cutting and Storage

I printed and laminated these in minutes. I used a zipper pouch for storage. I love these pouches because they are not expensive, but durable. Students can keep in a binder or desk. Zip bags could just as easily be used for storage.

I always like a resource with options. There is a transparent option that is perfect for printing on colored papers or pattered paper.

Implementing and Making Routine

Thinking about how to use these is going to be specific to classroom needs. There is no right or wrong way to use these Chat Chips-but clear expectations and routine will make them a positive and productive conversation tool. Starting in the beginning of the year is optimal, but they can be introduced at any time.

The way they are used can also fluctuate. The needs of the classroom may change throughout the year-thus the rules and expectations can follow suit.

Teacher Choice….Student Expectations

Once the Chat Chips are ready and the plan is created….start using. Hopefully group discussions will be more productive and collaborative.

Happy Planning!!!

Scheduling Tips and Strategies for Itinerant Teachers

Making my schedule might be the most stressful part of my school year. I get my caseload and immediately feel the pressure to get every student scheduled as fast as I can, mind you my students are in different buildings, grade levels and districts. So there lies the issue-how do I get it all to work?

I have started to look at my schedule as a quest, a game, a challenge-making magic happen on paper.

Once Upon a Time

I used to schedule my students in a very different way. I would run around and collect all the kids/teachers/bell schedules. Go home, lay them out on my dining room table and CRY. Depending on the year I would have at least half a dozen different schedules. I know all teachers have their struggles, but only an itinerant teacher will understand why this mess of schedules might cause tears.

Is it the schedules? The students? The teachers?

No it is the immense pressure I put on myself to make sure it is perfect, it is right for each student, it works for the classroom teachers & therapists and it all fits with safe travel time. So, with all of these factors swimming around in my head I would sit there and pencil my heart out. Multiple schedules were probably made because some email or factor to consider would pop up and I would adjust, readjust and adjust once more. This was very stressful and not the way I wanted to start my year, so this planning princess needed to change her September story. Battle Plan

Possibilities & Priorities

When I receive my caseload sheet I try to remind myself that all of these students will fit in my day and I will try my best to give them the best time possible for them-not me. I am the grown up and I can suck it up. It will all work out even if I can not see it from a list of names and locations…it will all fall into place.

  • How many students do I have/session times/consults?
  • How many buildings/locations- can I put students back to back in locations?
  • Grade levels-I find high school and middle school are more difficult to schedule.
  • Is this student new to me OR a former student?
  • Do I know the building? Teachers? Guidance Counselors?

After I answer these questions I arm myself with tools to make this process quick, efficient, and as painless as possible.

Scheduling Toolbox

These are the things I bring to make this quest for paper perfection lighter and easier.

  • Folder-to hold all of the information I get from teachers
  • Pencil-nothing is permanent yet
  • Eraser- this is self explanatory
  • Highlighter- I highlight blocks that are more difficult to move or accommodate
  • Legal Pad- I have found this is my favorite type of paper to create my initial schedule. Size matters here.
  • Sticky notes-to write comments and leave information with teachers
  • Schedules- Some years I reach out to guidance counselors and get older students schedules in advance. This way I can see or start to place them in the schedule first. I put my littles around these times.

With all of these things in my bag, I set forth with a smile and a positive attitude.

Setting the Stage for Success

If I have a sense of where I am going and who I am working with I can start to mentally lay out how to see my students. I try to think about personalities, ages, levels/abilities, frequency, and programming. If everything is new to me I feel as if I am going in blind, but I keep that smile and pep in my step. Everyone is stressed out in the first week of school. No one wants a negative, drama queen at their door demanding times.

  • Never PROMISE a teacher a time -too soon
  • Be as flexible as you can
  • Remember they are possibly struggling too
  • Ask about block schedules, specials, other therapies and just terrible times that won’t work for them.
  • Consider travel

If I can I will pencil a student into a square (putting travel in above and below the student session time). I will tell the teacher that the time seems OK for now, but once I start scheduling other students I might need to adjust-so I always ask for a back up time that could work….maybe not be the first choice, but can happen.

After I am done in each building I go out to my car and look at what I just received or was told. I look at how this new information can fit into the legal size puzzle I am generating. I will write in times/students that seem to have tighter schedules, so when I travel to the next teacher I can present less times. I find most teachers look at my folder and legal pad with shock and horror. They often piety me running around like the gingerbread girl, trying to make magic happen, and they will work with me on fitting a kiddo in. I want to be clear about this…I allow a teacher to see the “schedule”, but I do not let them have power of the pencil and tell me where I am putting our student. One year it seemed as if all my elementary teachers wanted the same time. It’s just not possible. I have a whole day to fill, so this is where the highlighter comes in….I start to block out times. They pop off the page.

Making Magic Happen

After I have all the schedules, comments and information needed, I sit down in a comfortable place-typically the couch and with wand (pencil) in one hand and coffee in the other I start to make magic.

  • Make sure you have all the students accounted for
  • Travel Time
  • Lunch
  • Planning/prep
  • Log Notes/Data Time
  • Consults

I find that writing out my students in a list and noting their frequency is very helpful. I will tally up or count them in my rough schedule. Nothing worse than thinking Sally is seen 2 times a week and really she is 3 times a week….been there!

Make sure the travel time is safe and realistic. You need to pack up, put on a coat, talk to a teacher and maybe….just maybe use the bathroom. Don’t schedule the times so tight you can’t breathe. I have done this for various reasons over the years and it never is good. By June I am beat up and cursing myself.

Eat lunch. I say this because it is important. So many of us eat on the run and this is not healthy. I am not suggesting where you eat, but just eat. All of the classroom teachers get a lunch and they typically take it. I find that itinerants sacrifice this very basic need to make everyone else’s life better. Self care my friends….EAT! You deserve that 30 minutes.

Abracadabra

Once I have this draft schedule completed I typically feel good. I know that it could have changes. Sometimes a teacher forgets, has their schedule change or I made a mistake in my planning. I tell myself that this is still fluid and I will try my best to accommodate possible changes. I also tell myself I can tell a teacher no. As itinerants we are running all over and sometimes a change can not work. Other students and people are counting on us to stick to the plan. I am a people pleaser, so this is hard for me, but I can not change multiple schedules around to accommodate one, especially if it is due to a preference not a real scheduling issue.

After a week of running this rough schedule I will make adjustments if needed and then put PEN to paper….well really fingers to a key board. I type up my final schedule and send it to my supervisor. I love this moment. After 2 weeks of stressing and smiling I can take a breath. I realize that students can drop and add throughout the year and what looks magical in September may be different in June, but in that moment I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Being an itinerant teacher takes a special type of person. We some how make it work-year after year. I think if we remain flexible, positive, realistic and passionate magic can happen.

Leave a comment, share your scheduling ideas….I would love to hear from you.