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
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 there.
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.