If Special Ed teachers are drama queens as my professor at Western New Mexico University claims, then teaching is the ultimate form of improv. For example, when a seventh grade student in inclusion math asked me what prime numbers were, I hadn't prepared a lesson to teach him. How do you really explain prime numbers, other than the fact that it is a number divisible only by 1 and itself? His eyes were glazing over. So I quickly changed course to the best way I understood prime numbers. "Prime numbers are anti-social." Huh? "Do you know what anti-social means?" "Anti-social ...


There is no such thing as a "bad day" or "lousy luck"-- you get what you put into it. But man, today was bad and my luck was lousy. Lessons flopped. Confidential meeting papers got misplaced. And three students earned lunch detention, which meant I also had lunch detention. Parents were mad, teachers were madder and students were maddest. Everyone was in a bad mood. It was one of those days you pause in the middle of a chaotic lesson and pray you're not contributing too much to the educational fallout in the United States. To add to the ...


I have a 14-year-old student with mental retardation who is learning to count by 5’s. Despite all of our practice and strategies, he hasn’t been able to get past 15 for the past month. Some days, it feels like a lost cause. Some days I think he’s not trying. And today, I am just tired. But as we sat down for math class today, he called me over for “a surprise.” He counted a handful of nickels on his own all the way to 45 cents. I was floored. And then he looks at my shyly and ...


Dear readers: I will be updating this blog every Tuesday and occasionally in between. Please check back regularly for new posts. Thank you! Teaching is a lot of things. Lots of warm and fuzzy things like getting apples on your desk, and making significant gains, and inspiring the future generations. But as far as I’m concerned, teaching is also getting out of your comfort zone. It’s getting uncomfortable. It’s doing things you normally wouldn’t care or want to do. Like crawling on the floor to demonstrate what a caterpillar looks like. Or talking in an old ...


I’m 5’4”, 112 lb., and I look like a 15-year old. There is nothing about me that drives fear into the hearts of 13-year olds on the Navajo Nation. Some days, I wish I were a 250 lb. linebacker foaming at the mouth. Like days when I have 10 middle schoolers mimicking the rapper Lil John over my attempts to teach the silent-e sound. Or days when a student is trying to catch my attention by swatting the arm of a sweatshirt into my face. And especially on days when I really do have a 14-year-old football linebacker ...


I have 10 kiddos running around my classroom, glue and papers on the floor, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there's blue paint slowly drying on my carpet. I still have a head cold and I stopped being paid an hour and a half ago. Yet, eight little paper scarecrows on my desk tell me this is all worth it....


It hit me how much I love my job today. I got a bit blue during my lunch break while thinking about how much I miss my boyfriend, who is living abroad this year. I started sinking in my chair and I could feel the tingle of tears around my eyes. But then who crashes through my classroom door, but “Elmer”, my student with cognitive impairment and physical disabilities. He is a sheep herder and a Navajo cowboy and sometimes he can be so, so naughty. And I'd never been happier to see him. You see, without realizing it, he ...


I’ll be honest: I wanted an environmental club. I wanted to sponsor an after-school club on water conservation and air pollution. I pictured myself gathering school children on sunny afternoons to learn about climate change. We could hook up with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program and invite Navajo environmentalists to lead talks; we could have started recycling. It would have been grand. Enthusiastically, I described my elaborate dreams to some fifth and eighth graders on the first day of school. They were kind enough to let me finish illustrating how we would pick up litter around the ...


It’s not in the state standards, but it’s one of those life skills all teachers must teach. And so, in the first week of school this year, my students and I found ourselves abandoning reading class for 15 minutes to walk around the classroom with our shoulders thrown back and heads proud in the air to practice looking “cool.” “Cool” is to be proud and comfortable with who you are, I explained after two girls snuck into the resource room 15 minutes late because they were too embarrassed to be seen entering the special education classroom. “Cool” is ...


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