New Admin with a Bombshell….

It is the Friday before our workshop weeks begins and things are insane already….

Last spring we were told (the beginning of May) that our principal would be resigning for a new job, a few weeks later we found out our vice principal was going to retire a year early. On top of that, the district had just hired a new superintendent for the next year because ours would be retiring at the end of June. This rocked our boats. The school that I work at is a VERY tradition orientated school and a place where family is everything. Our principal and vice principal were clear to me when I was hired that family comes first and building relationships with kiddos is more important than test scores. (Their philosophy was that if you give the kids a positive fun environment where they feel loved, their test scores will reflect that and it did.) Hearing that they were leaving, the same year as the superintendent, was a shock that sparked anxiety for the changes to come.

Fast forward to yesterday and a week before workshop begins. My team and I are sitting in a planning meeting getting logistics planned for the new year. We are doing something totally new this year (that was approved by our principal last year.) There are 4 of us on my team (9 total 3rd grade teachers) so we are going to do a 4-way switch between our 4 classes. 3 teachers did this last year but one left to go to 4th grade so myself and another teacher are going to join in on the fun. The way we proposed our switch to our last principal was that we would do 4 45 minute switches during the day. We would split all of the kiddos into 4 math leveled groups so we would have the high of the high together and group down from there. This would allow us to have super differentiated instruction for every kid. I would be teaching reading while the other 3 would teach math, science/social, and writing/math review. During our meeting, which lasted 3 hours, our new principal walked in to talk with us. I hadn’t met him yet so it was very scary to see him in person. He knew what we were doing and told us it was good to see us planning together.

We left the meeting having everything planned out. We had our 4 groups made based on their 2nd grade spring test scores, we had our first 2 days all planned out on how we would get our kids ready to start the switches, and we had a good idea on what the first few months of school would look like in each switch. What I learned is that, in order for this to work, we all have to be on the same page. I left feeling super overwhelmed but also extremely excited! I love teaching reading because I want to instill the love for reading in my students. What I didn’t know is that my anxieties would only increase within 24 hours.

This year I’m in a brand new room so I went in early this morning to get all of my busy work done. I left feeling confident I was ready for Monday’s meetings and for the craziness to begin. Then the bombshell. At 1:50 this afternoon we got an email from our new principal…..the numbers of our upcoming 3rd grade class is low (which they knew last year) and a 4th grade teacher has just resigned. That being said, they will be dropping a section of 3rd grade in order to have that teacher replace the 4th grade teacher who resigned. The email said that if no teacher requests to be the one to move, a teacher will be reassigned by the administration. Surprise!

My team (and myself) LOST it. Within seconds of the email, my phone was blowing up with different messages from everyone. We were all freaking out. Honestly, the week before workshop begins you drop this on us. Are you serious? What a way for the new admin to introduce themselves. Oh and like I mentioned before, our principal saw us planning everything yesterday. Why was nothing said?

At this point no one on my team has said anything about taking the spot. The scariest most anxious part of this whole thing is that I’m the newbie. This is only my second year at the school so if no one says they’ll move, the odds are saying it’s me. I’m freaking out. I’ve spent my summer preparing for focusing on reading and finding new things to do. I was so excited to have a year where nothing is new for a change. Granted, it’s only my 3rd year teaching but my first 2 years were in 2 different schools which meant that everything was new both years. I wanted a year where the curriculum was the same so I knew what I was getting myself into. Now….who knows. Honestly, I’m freaking out.

We were told we will find out what will happen Monday afternoon. I’m praying it won’t be me. That sounds selfish but I just want a year that will make me feel like a competent teacher. My only hope is that since the 4 on my team put so much effort into our switches plan (and since the school put together a special schedule just for us) it might not be me. Who knows. All I know is that this weekend will be filled with anxiety instead of relaxation. Not exactly the way I wanted my final weekend of freedom to be.

Yoga Calm in the Classroom

Oh man it’s been awhile. I didn’t realize how crazy busy I’ve been until I realized I haven’t written anything in weeks. A lot has happened since Lorax Day at school. With the end of the year here, my students are insane (like most students are at this time) and I needed a way to calm my students down.

My class is a mix of really great and sweet kids but their emotional needs are VERY high!! I have 5 girls who are all working in social groups because of anxiety and social needs and then I have a handful of boys who are off the charts hyperactive. I love them all but the last few weeks, it’s like all of their issues have been worsening by 200%. Because most of my girls work with the same social worker, she knows my class pretty well. She has spent a good chunk of time in my classroom this year helping my girlies and helping with the needs of all of my students.

She knows how hyper and emotional my class is so we’ve been brainstorming ways to help all of them at the same time while helping my mental sanity as well.

Another social worker in our district started working with a program called Yoga Calm. Our social worker heard how amazing it was doing in our middle school and thought that it would be a great thing for my class. I’m super open to anything and I was desperate for a change so we decided to give it a try.

Our plan was to start each day with a 10 minute “yoga calm” activity. The social worker would come into our room and we would have the students move the tables in my room to the back to create more space, turn off the lights, turn down the shades, and then they would lay in their own spot on the floor. It was a great plan in theory but the first day we tried this, it did NOT go quite as calmly as planned.

We started to try this on Monday of this week. I explained to my students what would be happening before the social worker joined us, so they weren’t completely thrown off with the change. When she came into our room (I’ll admit here, I was NOT thinking) I told my students to move the tables to the back of the room (yes, that was the only set of directions I gave them at the time.) Let’s just say, it was not a calm affair.

Once everything was set, we all came to the front to sit in a circle. They were very antsy and crazy already so it made me very nervous they weren’t going to calm down. We did a few calming activities and then a group activity. Most of the kiddos did really well (some could not take this very seriously on day 1) but it took us about 30 minutes to do a 10 minute activity.

Luckily, days 2, 3, and 4 went so much smoother. We have a pretty solid routine. When they see the social worker enter our room they calmly set everything up the way we originally had planned. They find their own quiet spot on the floor and they start to breath. Honestly, I’m still shocked with how calm they get. After our 4th day, ALL of my kids are able to “meditate” their own way on the floor. After some meditation, we go over some yoga poses and then we do a group tree pose together while talking about ignoring distractions.

Once our yoga calm is over, we start our day and holy cow they are seriously ready to learn!! It’s unbelievable to me how calm they are once we finish and how set they are on having a good day. Even my high energy students are set to go better than they have all year.

I am seriously so grateful for this program. We’ve only been working on it for the past 4 days but it has been my life saver! I highly recommend looking into it. It only takes 10 minutes every morning and it saves a ton of wasted time during the day that is usually spent trying to get students back on track. It’s so amazing.

As of today we only have 20 more school days to go until it’s officially summer. It’s seems so close yet so far away. If you are needed some help with the behaviors of your students (knowing summer is fast approaching) this is the ideal answer!

Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 8.29.42 PM

Help!! Teacher Advice Needed!!

Happy Fri-yayyy!! This has been an interesting week and I am tired! I feel like that exhaustion hasn’t exactly gone away in awhile. This post is a little different because I’m really asking for some help and advice on one of my students. This student is in the process of being tested for EBD but we’re having some hesitation with parents….because of that, I’m trying to find a way to help them the best I can, with as much support as we can give him/her without extra special ed support.

A little background…this student has had some pretty traumatic experiences in their life and because of that, already meets with our social worker pretty frequently. Over the year, I have learned that this student has extreme highs and extreme lows all in a matter of minutes. They can go from throwing a tantrum to giving out pictures saying “I love you” to everyone in the class in a matter of 5 minutes. He/she has also been removed from group interventions in reading and speech because they were a disruption to the other students in their group. They had to be placed in individual groups with just them and the interventionist. This student strives when they get one-on-one support. They LOVE when they get to be alone with myself, the social worker, or their intervention teachers. This student is the sweetest thing in the world but needs stable emotional help that we cannot provide them unless they are qualified for special ed. I’m at a loss.

This week, for example, is the perfect summary of who this student is and why they need someone to work with and a safe place to escape to….

Tuesday morning, this student came in to the classroom in a great mood (around 7:50am) and was ready to start the day. By 8:00, when the bell rang to officially start the day, I looked around and couldn’t find them. I looked around the room and found him/her in the corner sobbing while holding their breath and plugging their nose. I went over and had to sit next to them to see what was going on. He/she told me that another student (one of their super close friends) made fun of them and they just wanted to leave because “what’s the point?” They then plugged their nose again and I took it away to ask why they were doing that. He/she told me they were plugging their nose because they wanted to “prevent oxygen from getting to their brain so they could pass out.” What 3rd grader knows that (or has a tantrum like that in front of the whole class)!!?? I had to sit with them pulling their hand away from their nose until the social worker could come in to calm him/her down.

Later that same morning (about 30 minutes later), I couldn’t see where this student was. I looked around the room and then headed to my desk to let the office know this student had left. I then found him/her under my desk sleeping and when I say sleeping, I mean passed out completely! He/she was sound asleep. When the social worker came back and we all talked, the student was able to calm down enough to go outside with the rest of us for our morning mini recess time. When he/she came back in 15 minutes later, they were with the student that had turned them off in the first place laughing and talking because they were “best friends again”…….They were then inseparable for the rest of the day.

The next few days were okay but then today, when we went outside for morning recess, things turned sour again. He/she left for outside happy go lucky and came back in a TERRIBLE mood. A student from another class told me that my student tried to choke them because they wanted to play with whoever my student was playing with. When I approached my student, they didn’t deny it but then started to get very upset and angry and said that the other student deserved it because they were a bully. I tried to calm them down but he/she was so upset, they couldn’t control their emotions (something that happens ALL the time) and took off down the hall away from me. I contacted the social worker to come and when I went back out to the hallway, they were missing. I was panicked (this student has NEVER run away before until this week) and said I was going to call the office when the social worker arrived less than a minute later. That’s when he/she opened their locker showing us they were hiding in there the entire time. The social worker and him/her went for a walk to talk and calm down while I went back to try to teach the rest of my class. 10 minutes later, the student came back smiling and in the best mood they had been in the entire week. (Extreme low to extreme high….)

I have done my best all year (with the social worker) to give this student everything they need to feel safe and happy while also being successful in school but it has been an extreme challenge. We are not enough for them. His/her reading interventionist will tell the social worker and me that 15 minutes out of their 30 minutes together every day is pretty much a therapy session to release all of this student’s emotions and feelings that have built up throughout the day. When we finally had enough data to start EBD testing and had to reach out to their parent for agreement, this parent was completely against it. We tried explaining that the whole point is to give this student a place to go and a person to talk to whenever they are having a bad moment instead of crawling under their teacher’s desk and falling asleep out of exhaustion from anger but they still don’t want anything done. I don’t know what to do.

I’m posting this because I need help. I need advice on what I can do if this student is unable to get the support they need because the parent doesn’t want to go through with the process and have their child “labeled.” They need more support than myself, the social worker, and the interventionists can give together combined. Please, if you have ANY ideas or strategies that I can utilize, please share because this student needs everything and anything that is out there. UGH this is a case that breaks my heart. I want to do everything I can but my hands are tied. I feel useless. I will take anything you can give me!!