For the past year I have been privileged to be a Reality101 blogger.
It has beena great honor to write for such a prestigious community and to
share my thoughts and ideas and fears and dreams with my colleagues and peers.
I have especially appreciated the input from Andrea Elkin who served as our
editor for the lion’s share of the posting year and, more recently, Diane
Shinn. Both have helped me to become a more thoughtful writer and I have
benefited greatly from their editorial expertise. But I am also grateful for
the positive and encouraging feedback I have received from you, the readers.
So this is my last post for Reality101. I am sad that my
time as a writer here is complete, but I have to say that I enjoyed my time
very much and I am hopeful I can continue writing about my experiences as a
teacher elsewhere (like, say, my blog: Learning While Teaching.)
For my final post I’d like to share with you how I have been spending my summer
so far. I have titled this post: Ways to Productively Use Your Summer Break. J
First, tutoring. I currently tutor two students. One is a
student who is a participant in the Autism
Scholarship Program and the other is a student who missed a great deal of
school last year and qualified for Extended School
Year services. I have a great time tutoring. It is an opportunity to work, typically,
one on one with a student and to see growth in the student. For example, during
tutoring with the student on the ASP I introduced the student to a PECS and it
has been amazing to watch the student learn the system, use it, and talk to me with
it. Tutoring offers the opportunity to practice and hone your skills and try
new techniques in teaching. I encourage every teacher to try tutoring.
Second, building curriculum. I have a mountain of materials
behind me right now that I use to build academic tasks, hands-on curriculum,
and other functionally based learning materials. I have learned how to recycle
shoe boxes, Stax cans, prescription pill bottles, and just about anything with
a screw top lid. I have burned through more than 100 8.5*11 [DS1] thermal
laminating pouches, about 100 feet of Velcro, more ink cartridges than I care
to count; glue, file folders and more paper than I want to think about right
now. I have visited more craft stores this summer than I have visited in the
past 43 years. And I spend a lot of time looking at, buying, and downloading
materials from Teachers Pay
Teachers. I love building new tasks for my students to work through.
Summertime is a great time to be freely creative.
Third, professional development. Our State Support Team presented a fantastic
two-day seminar in June called Access to
the Curriculum: Thematic Content Planning for Students with Low Incidence and
Significant Cognitive Disabilities. The seminar was excellent and gave
teachers, seasoned and new alike, a significant amount of important tools to
use when planning curriculum for students. The seminar also helped us navigate
through the Common Core Standards
and apply them robustly to our lesson planning. Furthermore, I have already
enrolled in five more PD opportunities provided by my district before the
school year starts.
Professional development does not start or stop at
professional conferences hosted by districts or other organizations. I believe
as a teacher professional development is MY responsibility and thus I make use
of everything I can. So don’t wait for your district to mail you a flier: read
books, subscribe to journals, or do research on a subject that matters to you
or that you would like to influence in your district. A great place to start is
here: Autism Internet Modules.
Fourth, get to know your family again. Of course this should
be first on your list, but I think you get the point.
Fifth, reflecting. I have taken time this summer to evaluate
my previous year of teaching. I have thought about what worked. I have sulked
about what didn’t work. I have invented new ways of doing things. I have fixed
the stuff that didn’t work or replaced it with a better concept or idea. I have
taken time to be a reflective teaching professional because I do not want to
the teacher that all the non-teachers complain about. I’m not trying to be
arrogant: I simply want to be the best teacher I can be. Why? Because my
students depend upon me every day to be prepared for them and what they bring
to the classroom. They expect me to be
at my best all the time. I am constantly evaluating what works and does not
work. Summertime is a good time for reflection.
Sixth, searching. Summertime is a great time for learning
about new resources and exploring their functionality, efficacy, and potential
use in your classroom. One such resource I have found is Tasks Galore. The books available are
simply outstanding for ideas in developing modified curriculum, functional
curriculum, and hands-on tasks for students (especially if you use a TEACCH style curriculum in your classroom.)
Another great resource is the National
Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Here you will
find important modules supported by evidence based practices. Take time to
explore this most helpful resource.
Two other resources that have proven invaluable to me are
also websites. First is simply education.com.
I do not endorse everything there and, to be sure, there are times when I have
to correct errors before showing stuff to my students. But there are great
worksheets and workbooks that can be used on a Smartboard or in hardcopy or
however you like as a stand-alone or support material. Much of the material is
free, but for a very small fee you can get even more useful material. Second is
havefunteaching. Most of the material
here is free, but there is some material for sale. Again, be choosy. I
typically tear stuff apart and make a file-folder task out of what I find. (And
both sites tend towards supporting the Common Core.)
Maybe I missed the point of summer break for teachers. Maybe
we are supposed to put our feet up and relax or take a vacation or walk or long,
hot bath. I have always heard that teachers only work nine months a year. Well,
maybe some teachers do, but not this one. We start back to school in little more
than a month. I can hardly wait to get back to my classroom. And as soon as my
floors are cleaned and waxed this week, I will. I know my wife will appreciate
all the supplies not being in the house, scattered about the floor here and
Thanks, everyone, for reading my posts this past year. I
have appreciated very much your patience, endurance, and tolerance. I have been
blessed to be a part of this community and I am extremely grateful I was chosen
to be a blogger this year. Thanks to CEC for choosing me!! Please take time to
visit my personal blog: Learning While
Teaching and/or follow me on Twitter: @interspedfirst. Thanks again for a
great year. Laters.