If You Can’t Find Me, I Fell Into a Hole of Paperwork

The new school year started a few weeks ago; since then, my life has been a little nonstop to say the least. Teachers out there, would you agree?!

Being a Special Education Teacher comes with many challenges, way too much paperwork, and lots of patience. But being a Special Education Teacher also means celebrating the simple things, which I love! When I am working with a student and they remember or achieve something that we’ve been working on, it is the best feeling in the world. And not just for the student!

Last year the majority of my time was spent working with two special education students at my school. I also taught several reading groups each day, and handled paperwork and IEP’s for other students, but most of my time was spent supporting these two students and modifying materials and activities for them. This year, I am still working with the same students, but am also the Special Education teacher for a team of 6th grade teachers. In a nutshell, that means that I am responsible for helping to support any special education students that any of these 6th grade teachers have in their classrooms. I modify work for these students, handle their IEP’s, and go into the classroom to help them on a day to day basis.

I have many more students to support than I did last year, so I feel like a first year teacher all over again. Sidenote: I also moved into an apartment (!) two weeks ago and started grad school several weeks ago. And now I can add I was in a rear end accident this weekend and totaled my car. I am ok but will be new car shopping now! It’s been like one long Monday.

teacher

Lots of people I talk to don’t know exactly what being a Special Education Teacher means, or what I do on a day to day basis. So I thought I would share some teaching information with you all today! If you’re not a teacher, hang in there because this post is all about the challenges and benefits of teaching. I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures in this post. I usually like to include at least a few pictures, but today I’m sharing from my heart with just words!

First up…

Challenges

Did you write that down?

A big challenge of Special Education teachers is the paperwork. These days, it’s almost like I need to record and write down every strategy I’ve used with a child; what worked, what didn’t, even what I think I might try with them in 5 years. Ok, so I don’t record thattt much, but still an insane amount, in my opinion. We do need to record each time we talk with a parent and why, anytime we keep a child in from recess and why, behavior problems we have with any children and what strategies were implemented in the classroom, how students are making progress towards their academic goals… the list seemingly goes on and on. I feel like I’m wasting my planning time if I sit at my desk at school and work on paperwork, so I end up bringing lots of it home to do at night and on the weekends.

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A new IEP system

My county is transitioning from our previous IEP system to a new one this year. Which means all of our students’ IEP’s need to be manually entered into the new system. You would think with technology these days, we would be able to easily transfer data and information with the click of a button… but not in this situation I guess! It has been a very time consuming process so far. I can either look at the previous system, and copy and paste large amounts of information, but that still requires me to go to the old system, find my information to copy, minimize this window, go to our new IEP system, paste the information, and repeat 250 more times. Or I can look at a paper copy of the student’s IEP and manually type the information in. Copying and pasting doesn’t work out so well when you need to enter dates, select testing accommodations one at a time, and add new goals.

Speaking of Goals

Oh, and when I need to add in the student’s goals, there is no copying and pasting or typing information verbatim going on. And that would be because in addition to a new IEP system, we also got a new IEP goal bank online! So when I go to add a goal for a student, I need to rewrite the goal with our new goal bank first. If you can’t find me, I fell into a hole of paperwork.

A new testing system

Every 3 years, we are required to test a student in Special Education to see if the child still qualifies to receive services. We use research based assessments to test their progress in all academic areas. The testing manual we used last year just came out with a new version, so now I have to learn a whole new test, too! I need to learn how to administer the test, how to score it, and how to explain the assessment results to parents. Lots of new information all at once!!

PARCC accommodations

Last year the state test given in all public schools was MSA. This year, students will be tested using PARCC (yes, there are so many acronyms in education!). Here’s where the hole of paperwork gets even greater – if a student has a read aloud or scribe accommodation on their IEP, I need to have a meeting to review that and fill out additional paperwork prior to PARCC in the Spring. Long story short, I now need to hold IEP meetings for all of my students prior to PARCC. I can’t have all my meetings at once, so I need to start pretty much right now. But then we’re back to the problem of entering in all their data in the new IEP system before the meeting!

Benefits

The relationships

Since I am responsible for all of the students on my case load, I go into the classrooms to help them each day with reading or math, depending on the activity and if they need help at that time. I love this aspect of Special Education because I get to form a relationship with each one of my students, and let them know that I am there for them, all year long. I love the reassurance they are provided with when I help them in math, and they know that they’ll see me again for reading later.

Simple opportunities to help others

When I go into all of the classrooms to assist, I am not responsible for a homeroom class of students. I love this aspect because it gives me an opportunity to help in small ways. Whether another teacher needs me to watch her class while she takes a bathroom break, copy 3 more handouts quickly because she ran out of papers, or go for a walk with a student who needs to take a break. A homeroom teacher needs to remain with their class all the time, but since I pop in and out I am able to help teachers out and take a break in the classroom to help with simple things or check on a student in another class if I need to.

Celebrating small successes

Since I am typically working with students one-on-one or with a smaller group to reteach a concept or provide extra support, we usually need to review a skill multiple times before the students are successful. When a student does look up and say “I think this square I’m shading in will be a multiple of 3 and 6” after several days of counting by multiples, or uses a vocabulary word (correctly!) in a sentence on their own in daily conversation (not when studying the words) I literally get so excited! I am a firm believer that celebrating the little things and the small successes is just as important as celebrating the big accomplishments. That way, students will feel confident about themselves, and be more likely to continue trying in the future. Focusing on the small successes also gives me an opportunity to develop a positive relationship with that student. When I’m focusing on finding the positives and constantly encouraging a student, they view me much more as a “friend” and know I am there to root for them.

Constant Professional Development

I have the opportunity to spend time in many different classrooms each day! I am able to see different teaching styles and accumulate wonderful ideas and resources to use with other students now or save for the future. It’s like continual professional development and I get to see and help with a variety of activities and lessons. Two teachers may even be completing the same lesson one day so I am able to see different ways of implementing and modifying it.

I could keep going, but these are some of my biggest challenges and benefits I see on a day to day basis! Is Special Education hard and frustrating sometimes? Yes it is.

But is it worth it? Absolutely yes, a million times yes. Special Education

Let’s Chat!

  • Do you teach? If so, what area/grade?
  • What are some of the challenges and benefits for you?

So what DID you eat during your month as a vegan?

In the beginning of August, I shared my goal of eating vegan for a week. I realized after the first few days that it wouldn’t make sense to only try it for a week. By the time your body adjusts to eating differently and you start to feel better, the week is already up! I wanted to see how I would feel after a longer period of time, and I was glad I kept going in the end!

 

What I Ate

When I first started, it was a little challenging. The hardest part was all of the little things that I didn’t think about ahead of time… cream cheese on a bagel, creamer in coffee, etc. And of course I missed my chocolate!! In the beginning, I also felt hungry. Alllllll the time.

 

I could sit down and eat a salad and feel hungry an hour later. Even though I was eating throughout the day, I constantly felt hungry. It was a little annoying at first because I didn’t want to undo my efforts to eat healthy by then eating half a box of cereal, for example. I also didn’t realize just how many things were made with milk. I had to get used to stopping to read the ingredient list for everything, and it seemed like most things did contain milk or eggs. Goldfish, cans of soup, bread/bagels, granola bars… I learned a lot at least!

 

I stopped eating most kinds of granola and protein bars; even a chocolate chip granola bar usually contains milk. I stopped walking through the kitchen and grabbing handfuls of chocolate chips out of the bag. I stopped eating yogurt, regular pizza, baked goods and desserts, and obviously all chicken and turkey. So what DID I eat??

 

After I was eating vegan for a couple of weeks, my focus began to shift. Instead of thinking about all of the things I was limited from eating, I expanded my view to thinking about new foods and recipes that I could try. I became more creative with making meals, and focused on all of the new foods and ingredients that a healthy, vegan diet could include. After those first few days, I didn’t feel hungry all the time anymore either. It’s just a matter of figuring out what foods your body needs to be at its best!

 

Some of the things I ate included:

  • Oatmeal and Cereal 9-6-14 084

 

  • Banana “Ice Cream”

If you’ve never made this before, you’re missing out! All you need to do is freeze bananas (take the peels off first and store them in a freezer bag). Use a food processor to blend the bananas until creamy. I usually add enough almond milk to get everything moving, and then add in anything else I’m feeling at the moment! Cinnamon and peanut butter are a  great combination; so is just adding in cocoa – and topping it with peanut butter, of course. You just can never have enough peanut butter! If someone says you can, stop talking to them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

 

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Pictured above is a pumpkin spice banana combination… so good!! I added frozen bananas, almond milk, canned pumpkin, and a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Topped with a little Kashi cereal for an added crunch.

  • Salads – I got creative here! I would put chopped fresh veggies, nuts, chickpeas, edemame, fruit, craisins, pumpkin seeds, even a little cereal on top! (not all at once haha)

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  • Fruits and Veggies! I don’t think I’ve ever turned down fruit before. I love any and all kinds! I also found that dipping cucumbers or zucchini in hummus makes them easier to eat than plain veggies. One of my go-to dinners was a veggie sandwich on wheat bread with hummus.

 

  • Juicing – I did try this a few times! My favorite combination is a green juice: kale, celery, cucumber, and an apple.

 

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  • Nuts, especially raw or lightly salted almonds

 

  • Going along with our nut theme… Peanut  Butter or Almond Butter – I think this one might be a food group for me. I really need a detox program.

 

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  • Rice, couscous, or barley topped with veggies

 

  • Pizza – I used a gluten free wheat crust, sauce, and topped with tomatoes and zucchini (It tasted just as delicious with no cheese- try it!)

 

 

Challenges

Eating at Restaurants

Most of the time, when I went out to eat, my choices seemed to be salad A or salad B. I love salad, so that’s not a problem, but it’s still nice to have other choices sometimes. I mean, even if you love salad, who wants to eat that constantly?

 

Not Knowing If Things were Vegan or Not 

Sometimes I just wasn’t sure if something contained dairy products or not. For example, I was at Panera the other day and wasn’t sure if their bagels were vegan or not. I asked the cashier, but she didn’t know either. So I got a cup of coffee and called it a day!

Since I wasn’t refraining from eating dairy products due to an allergy, if I accidentally had it, it wasn’t the end of the world. I did cheat twice during this month! I had a brownie once, and a cookie once at a work luncheon. Even though I pretty much ate vegan for a month, I was OK with having these two things because it was something that really looked good to me at the time, and I had one and really enjoyed it. It wasn’t having the mindset of eating dessert just because it was there. Whether you are eating vegan or just trying to maintain a healthy diet, it’s important to still have things you enjoy once in a while. It’s all about building that balanced lifestyle.

 

Chocolate or Dessert

I could eat healthy 100% of the time if chocolate didn’t exist. However, it does … and I love it. I still found a way to satisfy my dessert cravings, thanks to Angela from Oh She Glows! These Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups hit the spot. They do contain tofu, which I initially thought was weird and not for me, but once I took the first bite, all thoughts vanished away and I wanted 10 more.

 

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Dairy- I don’t normally drink milk, so that part wasn’t hard at all. Besides not realizing that everything in the world contains milk, it was hard to not eat yogurt during this month. I actually still haven’t had any yet, though, so it’s been almost 6  weeks. I’m not sure if I will start eating it again or not.

 

 

Benefits

As the month progressed, I noticed that I had less headaches, my skin was clearer, and I just “felt” healthier. I didn’t really ever feel guilty about eating anything. I focused on eating healthy foods to fuel my body. Sidenote: No, you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating or treating yourself sometimes! This is just something I’ve always had a harder time with (Read more in a previous post on this topic: You’re Beautiful). Since I wasn’t eating dessert or chocolate, I didn’t even have to worry about that!

 

So What Now?

After my month of eating a vegan diet was up, I found that I wasn’t craving certain foods anymore. I had gotten used to eating a certain way, and have continued that in many areas now. I wouldn’t consider myself vegan currently, but I do maintain a vegetarian diet all the time (I don’t remember the last time I had any kind of chicken, turkey, or meat). I continue to strive to lead a balanced life in all areas, which includes what I eat. I have eaten some products made with dairy since my month as a vegan was over, but am choosing those kinds of things less and less, simply because I got used to not having it during this month, and I do believe it is healthier. I put almond milk in my coffee now or soy milk at Panera or Starbucks. I found that typically these places have it, you just have to ask because they don’t keep it out. I will still have frozen yogurt, a cookie or brownie, or soup that contains milk. I am just having these things less and less. I think it’s important, at least for me, to not necessarily put a label on something or the way I eat. I can eat a primarily vegan diet, but if I want to eat something that isn’t vegan once in a while, that’s okay. This is why my new blog name isn’t just a catchy title or a name- it is completely true in my own life. I strive to build a balanced life each and every day. I’m not perfect at this, but that is why it is a lifestyle, finding a balance, and a process. My advice to you is to identify a few goals you may have in your life; maybe you’re not ready to cut out dairy but you want to only eat chicken or fish 2x a week, for example. Find what works for you! Don’t be afraid to try new things, but remember to listen to your body throughout the process.

 

Hopefully that wasn’t too much advice thrown at you at once! If you have any other questions about what I ate during this month, how to make this work, or anything else, I would love to hear from you! See my contact page to send me a message, or email me at “amandan1192@gmail.com” I’d love to hear your story!

 

Let’s Chat!

Would you consider yourself a vegan or vegetarian? Have you ever tried it before?