Donors Choose - Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.

23 December 2008

A few things...

- Honestly though, winter break is so crucial for me right now. I don't think I could have finished out this week otherwise. I have one student who is ABSOLUTELY out of control. Everyday she makes me want to cry. It's horrible. She used to be one of my favorites, and now I can't wait until she is gone at the end of the day. Last night I had a dream about her. I don't want to get into specifics because I just want to stop thinking about it but just know that it isn't good.
- After all of the holiday baking (THESE are amazing... even I didn't screw them up), Christmas at school turned out to be a success. I had to bake for 15 different people and get a gift for my Secret Santa. I usually hate Secret Santa's because I feel like I put a lot of time and money into something and get crap in return. But this year, I got a $25 gift card to Macy's (the limit was $20, lucky me) which is completely perfect. So now I can pick out something of my own. :)
- I've come to realize that there is a huge difference growing up in a poor urban area and growing up in the suburbs. I mean, yes, obviously there is a difference, but there's just a difference in how you relate to people and "automatic answers" to things. Case in point, when one of the emotionally disturbed kids I'm responsible of the end of the day learned I lived in Manhattan, he asked me if I lived in the projects. Now, had anyone else asked me this back in Michigan, my response would be "WHAT? Do I LOOK like I live in the projects?!?!??!?" But he was asking me seriously. Like think about it, what a stuck up answer that would be. (Obviously I didn't respond to that in this situation.) I'm very grateful to be getting this new perspective on how life really is.
- On Monday after school, we caught 3 boys from my school with the police. They were jumping the turnstiles at the train station, even though they had MetroCards. The officers were saying that since the boys didn't have ID, they were going to have to take them down to the precinct. Lucky for those boys, some other teachers and I were walking by and could vouch for them that they were in school, and the officers let them go telling them that they were very lucky we were there to "save" them. Ugh. Part of me thinks we should have let them go down to the precinct and learn their lesson. They're 16 years old and in 8th grade. I can pretty much guarantee that 2 of those 3 boys will be in jail within 2 years. Sad but reality.
- Today I had an entire conversation in Spanish. Dios mio.
- Kids who make you Christmas cards (especially 14 year old emotionally disturbed ones) are really cute. Especially when they spell Michigan "Mishigan".
- Babes in Toyland is on TV. This used to be one of my favorite movies... I can't believe I've forgotten the whole story line.
- My flight leaves at 6am tomorrow.... please no freezing rain please no freezing rain. Fingers crossed.
- Did I mention how excited I am to go home????

16 December 2008

Seriously, New York????

WTF... yesterday it was in the 60's here in New York, and today there's SNOW! My first official snow-sticking-to-the-ground snow. There have been flurries, but this is like... really winter now. I'm kinda happy, it's kinda pretty, but not that much. I'll take the 60 degree weather again please.

Over the weekend, I lost my glasses (long story, please don't ask), which means I got a trial pair of contacts over the weekend and have been wearing them the past 2 days at school. I swear, you'd think I got plastic surgery or something the way people are so shocked and surprised that I'm not wearing glasses. Like the kids can't stop asking where they are. And adults too! Then this 14-year-old emotionally disturbed kid noticed I got my eyebrows threaded over the weekend? Like what is going on here? And I have light hair, I don't know how these kids notice things.

Speaking of students, they have been OFF THE WALL the past 2 days. I don't know what it is... holidays, crazy weather, full moon... a combination of everything??? It's just sucked so much. I haven't been able to get control of them at all. I'm literally running circles around the classroom trying to catch them. I wasn't notified when "playing tag" got added to my job description.

Plus I have IEP meetings and final grad school assignments and christmas shopping and holiday baking and all of these other things to do. I'm going nuts. I'm almost thinking that it hasn't been the kids who have been so off the wall... I'm just getting crazier. Totally possible at this point.


11 December 2008

There's nothing worse than....

.... coming home after a long day to find your zipper down.

And then realizing that you haven't gone to the bathroom all day sooo... thanks everyone.

Good thing I was wearing a long sweater.

08 December 2008


Once again, another Donor's Choose proposal of mine has been funded (by random strangers nonetheless.... I'm AMAZED at the kindness of strangers).

Sooooo I've made a new one, of course. More opportunities to donate to my kiddies... woohoo! This time, I'm asking for a new library for my classroom. NYC public schools are obviously grossly underfunded and when I came to my school (as much as I love it), there were no books or anything for me. I was given a few left overs that other teachers didn't want, or that the library had extras of, but most of them were falling apart or are inappropriate in terms of grade level for my students. So time to take matters into my own hands! I'm requesting a bunch of books and some library furniture, because our current bookshelf is somewhat decrepit and way too tall for my little babies.

TA DA! It costs a ton of money so I'm not expecting it to be fully funded for a loooong time, but seriously, even the smallest amounts help.

((steps off soapbox))


First things first, the amazing and inspiring Frumteacher tagged me in this blog thing to write 7 facts about myself and then pass it on. Unfortunately, I don't really have a lot of blog friends so I'm just going to do my facts.

1. I always play solitaire on my iPod on the subway. Right now, my average money earned is $101. Usually it's at around $60... I've been on a good streak recently.
2. I've broken both of my elbows. The first was doing gymnastics when I was 11, the second was rollerblading at age 16 or so (not as bad as the first one, though).
3. I've never been camping.
4. I've never owned a video game console or set or whatever they're called.
5. I really want to ride a horse in the ocean even though it's so cliché and ooey-gooey.
6. When I was little, I wanted to be Mariah Carey when I grew up. Now, I don't want to be here, but I still wish I could sing like her.
7. I never proofread my papers but still manage to (usually) do really well on them.

Since I'm a super bad blogger and haven't written anything lately, here's a little catch-up.

-- My thanksgiving turned out pretty good, even though I didn't get to go to New Jersey as planned. Instead, I spent it in the Bronx with a few friends.
-- The rest of the weekend was great as well... hung out with a lot of different friends in different places.
-- Last week was pretty low-key.
-- One of my students is being super frustrating... he's the one kid that I feel like I am failing. I just wish I could help him but I'm having the hardest time getting through.
-- On Tuesday, I got to meet up with one of my closest friends who just moved back from Germany! So much fun... it's crazy how much I miss my study abroad friends sometimes.
-- On Thursday night, my family came!!!!!!! Mom, 2 aunts, and 1 cousin. It was a great girls weekend. We did a lot of things, ate a lot of food, and had some good laughs. We saw Altar Boyz (off-Broadway play) and it was hilarious... I highly recommend it.
-- I got my hair cut today! Got like 5 inches cut off. It's a lot but it feels so much healthier and I'm so happy I finally found a place in New York that I actually like and will go back to.

And on a more education-related note....
-- Today I actually physically broke up my first fight at school. Well, more like helped to try to contain it before it happened. One of my favorite 11-year-old emotionally disturbed kids at my bussing table was getting harassed earlier during bussing and called me over and I did my best to diffuse the situation (instigator went back to his table). Then as the kid walked by to his bus he tried throwing a punch at my kid. So I just held my little one back (from behind... no way I'd step in the line of fire of punches). But the rage and anger I saw from this otherwise sweet and insecure kid was incredible and totally eye opening. It wasn't just cursing or trying to punch him... but he was literally shaking and crying and couldn't calm down. I was shaking too. I've never been in a physical fight of any sorts so that might be the closest I've ever gotten to that. But he gave me a hug before he got on the bus and told me thank you for helping him. Wish I could do more, little buddy. I did my best but I'm still afraid that something will happen between them tomorrow (I won't be there either).

And now I have a tummy ache. But I have a conference to go to for the next 2 days in Manhattan so yay easier commute!!! Hope everyone's week is of to a lovely start.

26 November 2008

Thankful 2008

Instead of writing about my emotional break down in the middle of Penn Station, here's my list of things I'm thankful for this year.

This year, I'm thankful for:
-having a job.
-making enough money to live on my own (even if it's just barely).
-hearing "I love you" from 5-year-olds everyday.
-getting paid to hear that.
-having an unlimited MetroCard that's good for the whole year.
-friends at school who make huge Thanksgiving feasts.
-my coworker who drives me to the train every afternoon.
-Nussbaum & Wu bagels and iced coffee.
-the Dunkin' Donuts near my school.
-having friends who invite me to Thanksgiving dinner.
-the Pistons playing the Knicks so I can watch it here.
-my roommate's cute cats.
-sparkling water.
-American Apparel t-shirts.
-random generous people who donate to my Donors Choose thingys.
-the MTA (sometimes).
-my Burberry earmuffs.
-friendly strangers.
-wireless internet.
-Barack Obama.
-ginger ale.
-a nice warm and cozy apartment.
-my family visiting in 8 days.
-all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (whom I miss DEARLY).
-Tasti-D-Lite and Pinkberry (why don't we have these things in MI?)
-staying in touch with my good friends.
-my talented and amazingly smart little sister.
-my parents who I know will support me even if I join the circus.

Pretty good list, I think. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

23 November 2008

New Donors Choose

Sorry for this lame attempt at a post, but I have a new Donors Choose project....

Here it is!

These materials would help my kids so much. I asked my principal for them but there's a freeze on buying new materials until the budget gets regulated.... so basically that sucks. I would appreciate ANY help.

Thanks guys!

18 November 2008

Aye dios mio.

Yes, my students say this. And yes I laugh (every time).

Today's dios mio moment came when talking to two parents. They are from Africa and don't speak English all that well. Enough to basically communicate, but not get down to the nitty gritty, you know? Anyways, their daughter has autism (as all of my students do), and they knew absolutely NOTHING about it. It was so eye opening and sad.

They didn't know that it was something in the brain. They didn't know that they process things differently. They didn't know that a lot of kids with autism have sensory issues (and theirs seeerriously does). They didn't know that kids with autism often echo back what they hear. They didn't know that there's no proven reason why it occurs. A doctor just told them that was what she had and that she should be in special ed. And there we were.

I felt so bad for them because they are so concerned and worried for her. I tried my best to ease their fears and reassure them that she's actually doing great and learning so quickly, but I could still see that they were worried. And who wouldn't be? Someone told them there was something wrong with their daughter and that's it! No one bothered to explain to them what, or why, or what she was doing.

They kept asking me what they could do at home, telling me behaviors and asking if it was related to autism, etc. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the whole notion of "parents in lower income areas don't care about what's going on, aren't involved, etc.". And yes, some of that is true. But sometimes there are the parents that just have no idea what to do. These parents I met with today haven't written me one thing all year in her communication book, don't send things in on time, and don't always bring snack.

At first I thought they just didn't care or didn't have the time. But now I see that they've just been bombarded. And especially with the language barrier. So much of what we send home is technical... gestural prompts, manipulative materials, hand over hand, assisstive technology, cognition, etc etc.... they have no idea what that means. So anyways, my new goal is to find some information about autism in their native, little known dialect. Wish me luck.

Oh- and work could get really stressful tomorrow with an important meeting I have. Pray for me around 1pm....

17 November 2008

Get into the groove...

I finally feel like teaching is becoming more natural. Not that interacting with kids has ever been unnatural for me... but interacting with them and teaching them are totally different. Today was one of those days that just went by so fast... it was amazing! I can only list today because the Nyquill is starting to set in...

--For the first time, I feel like I timed the day perfectly. The kids were constantly busy and did a very good job at focusing today, which eliminated a lot of our problem behaviors. Which was also good because the ABA consultant came today and it made me look like a good teacher. Whew.

--I love the ladies in the office. They're constantly giving me compliments and telling me how cute I am (which of course, makes me blush)... I think this stems from the fact that I'm the youngest person in the school (besides the kids) and they like to baby me. I'm not complaining.

--I think one of my kids is in a foster home but have no concrete way of knowing. Asking the mom would be overstepping my boundary, but I really wish I knew. It doesn't change how I treat him or interact with him, but still, it would be good to know.

--If it weren't for the people I work with I don't know what I'd do. They're great and amazing, both as coworkers and as friends. They give me ideas, inspiration, curriculum, materials, laughs, perspective, and rides to the train (no bus for this girl).

--The average age of my new work friends is probably around 29... which makes me feel older. I've never had friends who were that old, but now I definitely agree that once you get past a certain age the number doesn't matter anymore. It's just funny to think that some of my closest friends were born in the 70's and I regularly counsel them on not being so scared to turn 30. If you asked me a year ago, I never would have thought I'd be having those types of conversations.

--I'm a huge fan of collaboration with other teachers, but for the first few months, I felt like I was the one taking ideas and worksheets and plans, and not able to share anything of quality. Finally, I feel like I have legit things that people want to steal... it feels nice.

--It's finally getting cold here. :( :( :( Although I'm not looking forward to the cold weather, I am VERY much looking forward to my first New York snow. I hope it's as magical as I think it will be. It probably will be for like 2.4 minutes and then I'll be over it.

--Haagen Daaz Fat-Free Strawberry Sorbet is to die for. Seriously.

--Oh, and so is Desperate Housewives. The end.

15 November 2008


This is the chorus of PS 22, in Staten Island. This group of 5th graders and their teacher are SO amazing. I've been watching their videos all day... I just can't get enough. These kids are so talented and passionate. This sort of creative outlet is exactly what kids need, especially in NYC. Being that sort of teacher is something to aspire to be... I mean just look at their faces as they sing!! Truly amazing and special.

They have a blog, so if you'd like to read more, look for the link to the right. :)

**Thanks to Angela for teaching me how to embed videos :)

13 November 2008

Couscous is the new mac and cheese.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I looooveee mac and cheese.  Mostly of the Kraft/Velveeta variety, although a delicious home-made batch is a surefire way to my heart.  But, I've found a new love.

Near East Couscous.  Especially the olive oil/garlic kind and parmesan.

It's basically foolproof and ready in 7 mins... it's great on it's own, as a lovely bed under chicken, in a salad, etc etc.  Easily my new obsession.

I like to think of it as the grown-up version of mac and cheese... you know since I'm supposedly a grown-up and all (or at least act like one more than 50% of the time).

More to come on the total incompetency of people I work with in the near future.... 

08 November 2008

Patience is a virtue....

Some days, it's just so hard to be patient.  I'm not sure what it takes, but sometimes I just want to walk out.  I'm not sure if it was because yesterday was Friday, or if it was because the whole week was weird due to conferences and Election Day, but the kids were going crazy.  Or at least I thought they were.

I actually made a student cry.  I don't feel like explaining in detail but I didn't yell at him, just reprimanded him and he went to the corner to cry.  I took him aside and he just wouldn't stop hugging me and telling me he was sorry.  I felt really bad, but I had to address the situation.  He just got really emotional over it.  Oops.

I got a Smartboard though!!!  I was very excited when the technology teacher brought it in.... I wasn't expecting to get it yesterday.  I can't wait to get it set up and start using it.  Another teacher was pretty peeved that I got it and she didn't, but that's what happens when you're nice to the technology teacher.  And when you have three students who can't write.  I think the Smartboard will really help them because of its touch screen.... I'm excited to see what we can do with it.

Last thing for today... I just wanted to mention one more time about my Donors Choose project.  Somehow my project qualified for "Double Your Impact", which means that Wachovia bank is matching donations.  So if you donate $20, the total contribution is $40.  And so even though the total cost is $542 and only $181 has been given... only $90 is left!

I hope you all have an enjoyable and relaxing weekend :)

04 November 2008


omg omg omg omg omg omg....

All I hear right now is horns honking, fireworks, screaming.... and it's AMAZING.  This is something to remember... forever.

03 November 2008

Your Civic Duty

I remember four years ago... voting for the first time.  It was so, so, so exciting.  I was a freshman in college, 18 years old.  I registered my address at my dorm so I could vote in the lobby in my pajamas.  And that's exactly what I did.

I woke up at 5:50 am and went down the hall to rouse my equally excited first-time-voter friend.  We both went down in our pajamas and were within the first 1o people to vote at our location.  How exciting, right?  After we voted, which took a lot less time than I'd hoped, we went across the street to the other dorm, which served breakfast.

We waited for our other excited first-time-voter friends and then slowly trickled out to attend classes (yuck).  We were all so happy and giddy.... until the results started coming back.  My lovely die-hard Democrat of a roommate sat on our couch in her Kerry t-shirt for 2 days.

We were all shocked, started researching universities in Australia and Canada, and basically just bitched and moaned for about a week before realizing that we weren't going to leave school to move out of the country.  And somehow, we (barely) made it through those 4 years.

Voting was a little less exciting this time around... woo absentee ballot.  I can't wait for this election to be over and to stop thinking about "What if?" constantly.  Of course, I'm trying not to be too optimistic, but yeah, I just can't wait until tomorrow night is over.

I hope you all know your polling place and are making time to vote tomorrow.... it's a MUST.  Voting matters more than ever, and hopefully you think so too.

For me, I'll be going to lovely professional development all day and checking CNN on my phone to read anything I can.  Also, RIP Barack Obama's grandmother.... timing is a strange thing.

Happy voting!

02 November 2008

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time never really seemed to affect me... until this morning.  I think it's the greatest thing on Earth.  If everyday had 25 hours in it, my quality of life would be so much higher.  This morning, on a Sunday, I just naturally woke up at 8:30.  I know Mom, you're shocked.  

I wish I could wake up this early on every weekend day and not feel tired and wanting to go back to bed.  Imagine how productive I could be.....

I'm back!

A huge reason for my absence from blogging?  Stupid Time Warner cable.... I swear, they are ridiculous.  Our internet will go out for like a week at a time, no one comes when they schedule appointments, and it's always just quick fixes.  Like I'm terrified that as I'm writing this it will go out and be gone forever.  ANYWAYS, excuses excuses.

I am constantly exhausted.  I feel like I'm playing a never-ending game of Catch Up and failing miserably.  I don't think I'm failing at my job or anything, but it's just like things are never finished and I can never just relax without thinking about school (work) or school (grad school).  I hate doing stupid grad school stuff when I really need to be lesson planning or getting things ready for the next day.  It's very frustrating, esp. when everything you're doing in those grad school classes are a waste of time or not even applicable to what you need to know.

Work is going pretty well, all things considered.  I feel really lucky to have the co-workers that I do.  It's really easy to collaborate with people and get ideas and things from them.  It's also nice to have a group of teachers who have sort of taken me under their wings... I'm like the baby of the group.  It's still strange to me that I have friends who are 30 who I go out with and stuff.  Strange but very normal all at the same time.  Having these friends at school are great, because it gets you things you need, like SMARTBOARDS!  I'm getting one on Monday... and I'm very excited because I think it will be great for my kids and hopefully I'll be able to do a lot with it.

Halloween was a great day in school.  A teacher planned this huge Halloween party at our school for the autistic and multiple handicapped students.  Only 1 of my students brought in a costume, but luckily the drama teacher had a few extra costumes so we got my kids all dressed up, and they looked amazing!  I wish I could post pictures of them on my blog... family, you'll get pics in an email.  They had so much fun and it was just great to see them having such a great time and just being kids.  A lot of our students don't go trick-or-treating at home, so it's great to be able to do that for them in school.

I also fell in love with a kindergarten student in one of my friend's classes.  He's the most difficult one, but I love him.  I hadn't really interacted with him before Friday (honestly I was scared after hearing the stories...), but on Friday I let him come sit on my lap and he wouldn't get off.  He took my arms and put them around him so tight and just laid back and was so content.  It was so cute, yet so sad.  His teacher said that he likes the embrace so much because she doesn't think that he feels that at home.  Sad sad... maybe I'll have him next year (if I don't keep my kids for the next year).

I swear I'll start writing more.  That's my November goal.  That and to get myself organized.  If you know me at all, you know organization is my weak spot, so I must work on that.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

31 October 2008

Yes I am alive, yes I'm still teaching, yes my kids are still angel monsters, and yes, I just got back internet.

Look for an update tomorrow... promise.

09 October 2008

I have a book by Bill Ayers... am I a terrorist too?

Anyways.... I don't mean to get all political, since that's not really the point of this blog... but, this video is hilarious. Pay attention to the old people in the back. (I wish I knew how to upload videos from YouTube directly to the blog.... help please?????)

Today was a beautiful day, and what made it even more beautiful was the fact that I didn't have to work. Summer's back, at least for the weekend, and it's glorious. Have a great weekend, everyone!

07 October 2008

Low Point

Today was the first day that I actually screamed at them.  I have to yell on a daily basis to be firm with them, but it's always controlled and concise.  Not this time.

Everyone was making noise, no one was sharing, everyone trying to get my attention at the same time, putting things in their mouths, eating 5 day old marshmallows that were glued to paper as part of a math lesson, breaking things..... and then, the New Girl stood straight up, on the rocking chair.

And I flipped out.  And right at that instant I wanted to scream and cry at the same time.  WHY CAN'T THEY JUST LISTEN TO ME??????

I never want to scream at them again... but it was the end of the day and I was sick of it and just like snapped.  Luckily no one else was in the room with me at the time to witness such an embarrassing loss of control on my part.

Thursday is Yom Kippur, Monday Columbus Day.... Thursday Yom Kippur, Monday Columbus Day.... it's my current mantra.  PLEASE BE GOOD TOMORROW CHILDREN.

06 October 2008


Hi blog world,

I'm really falling down on my blog duties... I just don't have much to write lately.  Work has become less "shocking" and more routine, so there aren't as many interesting stories to tell.  Things are pretty business as usual.  Right now we're learning about weather and seasons.  Fun fun.

Surprisingly, math is my favorite thing to teach.  Don't ask why... I don't know why.  I had a student the other day say "Miss A, I'm MAD at you."  Very clear and concise emotion-filled sentence for a kid w/ autism.  Then he even explained why he was mad.  I was so happy he was expressing himself with an emotion other than "I'M FINE!" and able to justify why.  I had to tell him that I was sorry he was mad but I was happy that he was telling me how he was feeling.  He just got really confused.

I know they're learning, even if it's not necessarily what I'm teaching.  Example: I did a lesson about clouds, and although they don't remember much about clouds, they remember the concept of big/little, which was a side, small component of the lesson.  So they're learning SOMETHING.  

My best friend comes to town on FRIDAY!  She'll be here for Friday night, all of Saturday, and most of Sunday.  On Saturday, we're going to the Madonna concert at MSG.  I can't believe I'm 22, been a Madonna fan my entire life (before I could talk I think), and yet have never been to a concert.  The time has come... 

PS: Thanks for the advice on the previous post, everyone :)

04 October 2008

Need Advice.

So here's the sitch.  The other day, I got a call from my super low funtioning student's "service coordinator".  From what I understand, she's appointed from some agency to oversee all of his related service and educational things... I don't really know.  Anyways, she wants to have a meeting w/ me and his mother to discuss if he should be attending our school.

To be honest, I think he would be better in a more intensive school.  I can't give him the attention and behavior therapy that he needs all day.  He's at a VERY different level than the rest of the students.  BUT, that's not what I'm *supposed* to say.  Because it reflects badly on our school if we're unable to accomodate him.

My principal told me to go with my gut and to just say what I thought during the meeting, but I know she doesn't want me to say it.  The "unit coordinator" at our school is also sitting in on the meeting to give her input and whatever.  She's been in my class for a total of 10 seconds this year, so she can't have much say really.

So the huge moral dilemma is, who am I working for right now?  Am I working for the school or for the student?  My gut instinct in this case is to tell the truth... that I don't think we can meet his needs and that he should be in a separate school.  I don't want to be on my principal's bad side, but the second that I stop doing what's best for the kids is the second I stop really doing my job, right?

Who knows, maybe nothing will even really come of this meeting.  It's going to happen sometime this upcoming week.... so if any veteran teachers out there have any advice as to how to not make my school look bad, but also to get this student the education that he is legally entitled to?  Ideas ideas?

30 September 2008

The Return

This is by far my favorite place in the city... Bryant Park. Sorry my hair's in the picture... I couldn't be so sly as to take a picture totally without me in it. I looked ridiculous enough trying to do it right now.

I'm in Bryant Park on this lovely Tuesday for a variety of reasons. First, for the free wireless. My internet at home has been super shoddy and I haven't been able to get on for more than 2 minutes at a time... hence my absence from blogging. Second, I don't have work today (or tomorrow) because of Rosh Hashanah. I've never gotten school or work of for Jewish holidays, but it's quite nice and I definitely needed it. So where better to get free wireless on your beautiful day off than Bryant Park? (I'm super dorky and think of Project Runway and Fashion Week everytime I'm here....)

Work is going ok. Last week it seemed like my whole job was to blow noses... pretty disgusting. Which leads me to my current state of being: sick. It was a lot worse over the weekend, so now I'm just congested and just otherwise not feeling 100%. Seriously... these kids have so much snot. I never realized how much they have. It's like never ending. We went through 3 boxes of tissues and a whole thing of soap within a week.

Now, 3 (as opposed to 2) students readily say my name. And when I say readily, I mean, at any chance that they get. My day is constantly "Miss A Miss A Miss A!!!!".... accompanied with poking me. We definitely need to work on appropriate social skills.

I feel like it's taking me a while to get into the swing of things. I still don't feel fully acclimated to everything and feel like I'm always trying to catch up. I'm suspecting I'll feel like this for the whole year. My students are improving but I still feel like I'm not teaching them anything. Or at least not teaching them anything that they remember.

So this week is short, then next week we have Thursday off due to Yom Kippur, then that weekend my best friend from high school is coming in from Ohio and we're going to the Madonna concert! Then we have the next Monday off for Columbus day, so things are looking up with all of these breaks and visitors.

On a side note, I went to a typical Columbia "college type" bar this past weekend... and wow do I feel old. Add to that fact that my across the hall neighbors just moved in and the first thing they ask is "ARE YOU A STUDENT TOO????". Nope... I work. Sigh.

14 September 2008

No Sunday Funday

Another Sunday... another week.  The weekends are definitely not long enough.  Had a fun weekend, but still... I need more time!!!

Friday, I went to happy hour with NYCTF people right after work.  Besides the fact that it was pouring and I was sans umbrella, it was a great time.  It's great to compare stories and just complain in general about all things teaching, NYCTF, or grad school related.  Got home pretty early and went to bed around 11pm.  It's nice to start drinking earlier, because then you go to bed earlier.

Saturday, I just relaxed for pretty much the whole day.  Then I went to Hoboken to watch one of the most disappointing Michigan games ever.  It's not like ND played exceptionally well, we were just exceptionally horrible.  Saturday night I stayed in Hoboken for a while... went out for dinner and then out for drinks for one of my friends birthdays.  We also made a stop at her boyfriends frat house and I was reminded what college feels like.  It was a nice reminder but I'm happy to be removed from that lifestyle... 4 years is enough.

Today, I went shopping (for teacher things of course.... did you know desk organizers were so expensive?!??!?!?) and did work at a coffee shop with some teacher friends.  I worked on those ridiculous assessments and lesson plans for quite a bit of time, yet still feel like I didn't get anything done.  Oh the neverending work.

Monday Monday, why are you here already????

12 September 2008

Donors Choose... again!

So my 1st Donors Choose project got funded within 24 hours.... SO I made another one already for people who didn't get the chance to donate to the first one and expressed interest.

I appreciate ANY and all donations!!!!  Have a great Friday everyone :)

11 September 2008

Only in my life....

do you see Obama and McCain in person, get an entire curriculum set for math (!!!!!!!!), and have a mentally retarded boy profess his love for you in the sweetest way.... all in the same day.

I mean, who wouldn't want that????

On a more serious note, it's odd for me to be in New York on 9/11.  The city just has a weird air to it.  I can't pretend I know what it was like, but I can start to feel what the city was like that day.  And that's terrifying.  I didn't say one word about it to my students... all of whom were born in either '02 or '03.  They wouldn't be able to comprehend anything, and if they did, they would just echo what I said back.  And honestly, I didn't want a kid talking about 9/11 all day and not realizing what it actually was.  Instead, I just put a picture of the flag on our calendar where the 11 would have gone, and I think that was enough.  Adding to the bizarreness was the sighting of Obama and McCain running from their limos to the building less than 10 blocks from my house.

All I have to say is, thank God tomorrow's Friday.

10 September 2008

Pee pee time

Ah, those magic words.  I swear I've heard The New Girl say these words before, but alas, today was not one of those days.  I was doing one to one instruction with her this morning when all of the sudden, my foot was wet.  I look down and sure enough, a huge puddle was forming on the floor.  Yep, I got peed on.  Or, according to the other teachers, "christened into the big kids club".

The most frustrating thing about it is that I don't even know if she realized what she did.  She was in La-La Land.... literally.  Rocking back and forth and singing some incomprehensible song.  I told her to look and kept repeating "yucky, no, you need to tell us 'pee pee'", but I don't know if she heard one word.  (I know, this might not have been the "correct" thing to say, but whatever, I'm learning).

And that's the most frustrating thing about kids with autism and the reason that a lot of my teacher friends prefer to work with the emotionally disturbed set as oppose to the autism population.  Sometimes it's like, how do you know if you're getting through.... on ANY level?  As I led her to the bathroom to change into a different set of clothes, she was still singing the mystery song and it seemed like she had no reaction to her accident.  Meanwhile, my foot is covered in pee and I force my size 11 feet into a pair of size 7 flip-flops that my para had in her bag while my shoes are sanitized and dry out.

This job is definitely never boring.

On a separate note... I hate SPED paperwork!!!!!!!!!  My school is doing the ABLLS-R assessments (for all you teachers) for the 6:1:1 population (the kids w/ moderate-severe autism).... and it's about 75 pages of questions.  FOR EACH KID.  Each page has roughly 5 questions on it... all ranging in their reading/math abilities, social interaction, hygiene, toileting, etc etc.  So 75 pages x 5 questions x 6 kids = 2,250 questions I need to answer about their abilities.  After knowing them for about 20 days.

I retract my previous statement... this part of the job is RIDICULOUSLY boring.  And time-consuming.  Boo hiss.

07 September 2008

Pimpin' ain't easy.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm not a morning person.  It usually takes me about an hour to really wake up and get to a place in my head where I can actually talk to people.

Every morning, I get off the bus near my school at about 7:30.  By this time, I've already been awake for like 2 hours, so I'm definitely able to talk.  The first person I talk to everyday?

A pimp.  Or at least a man who dresses up exactly like one.  I'm talking top hat, crocodile shoes, cane, and suit, all matching in some ridiculous color.

No joke... he stands near the bus stop and every morning he says "Well good morning Miss Teacha."  And I respond with a cordial "good morning" back to him.  It's not like he's saying anything offensive, lewd, or inappropriate, so not responding would just be rude, honestly. 

That's what you get for working in the Bronx, I guess.... :)

06 September 2008

Please pray....

I just found out that a fellow Teaching Fellow has been missing for over a week. She started the program last year, and this summer, I almost subleased her apartment while searching for a more permanent place.

The fact that I've had personal contact with this girl makes the whole thing way too close to home. She offered to help me get settled in New York and seemed like an amazing person. All of her ID, credit cards, and cell phone were left at her apartment.

Here's a link to the story.

Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks.

05 September 2008

Getting my rhythm

Today I finally felt like a teacher.  It's all about rhythm and transition with my students.  Making sure each activity is long enough, but not too long.  Giving them enough breaks so that they don't get overwhelmed.  Getting into a routine and not deviating from it AT ALL.

We go to the bathroom at specific times.  We line up the same way and in the same order each time.  We always wash our hands before eating (and go in the same order that we walk in the halls in).  We always sit in the same seats.  We always listen to the same music.  We always do the same routine in the morning and at snacktime.

These routines are constantly being tweaked though, as I learn more about my kids and how to manage them more efficiently.  It's all just a learning process.  Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to get some work done for next week.  Next week, I wanna focus on schedules, symbols, and songs.  

Kids with autism need VERY detailed schedules with pictures... but of course this takes time and a lot of thinking.  For symbols, I basically just need to label everything in my room.  Everything.  And for songs... I just need to get some basic and easy songs that we can sing in the morning, when we clean up, when it's snack time, time to line up, etc.

I must say though, my school is amazing.  It's not even the administrators.  It's the other teachers who make it so great.  Everyone is so helpful and there are so many teachers I can go to for advice or help with certain students.  This isn't the norm... I don't know how I got so lucky!  Everyone has an open door policy.  Today, one of my kids old teachers came to me with a burned CD that she thought he'd like.  She didn't have to do that... I didn't ask her to... she just thought it would be helpful and did it.  It's great to get help before you even need to ask.

Anyways, I'm out.  Time to go have a life (aka go out and partake in adult activities).  Most of my day is spent playing, coloring, reading, and washing hands... none of that tonight.  Except maybe washing hands... that's important.  Michigan game tomorrow..... please please please win?

Donors Choose!

Donors Choose is an amazing website for educators that lets them post proposals that need funding and allows people to donate to that project.  You can donate any amount, and the money goes straight to Donors Choose, who fund the project through vendors and ships whatever you requested straight to your school!

I recently created a proposal for my classroom requesting a bean bag chair and a physio-ball for my students in our library area.  My students with mild to severe autism are constantly stimulating themselves, often in the form of rocking or bouncing.  A bean bag chair would help to encourage independent reading and rest time, and the physio-ball will allow them to bounce and rock in an effective way.

We have a small (and I mean small) rocking chair in our room and the kids always fight over who gets to use it.  They love to sit in it and rock back and forth, back and forth.  So I'm hoping that the physio-ball will give them some other options.

Soooo my dear family, friends, and other blog readers, here's my proposal.  I hate asking for things (very stubborn), but when it comes to my students, I'll ask for anything.  Seriously, any amount of money is appreciated, even if it's just $5. 

PS: I survived my first week!  And got a compliment from an administrator!  And a student threw a toy out of the 4th floor window!  (Gotta take the good with the bad I guess....)

Have a great weekend everyone!

04 September 2008

I think I'm gonna vom...

Woo for bodily fluids inside schools.

I don't deal with the toileting of my children (some are still in pull-ups, ALL need assistance), but today I had to deal with another bodily fluid.  Vomit.

Ms. New Girl came into the cafeteria for breakfast with her mother (because she's still not assigned a bus...) and immediately started crying.  I was thinking "ok, a few tears, she does this often, no big".  She keeps whining a little then stops and we get to the hallway to go upstairs and all of the sudden she stops and just vomits.  On the floor.  On my SHOE.  Good thing I had plastic flip flops on.

I'm just thankful it didn't happen in my room... the smell was horrendous and even though it was cleaned up quickly, I would have been sick and probably imagining the smell in my head for the whole day.

Went to the nurse with her mom, which took out about 20 mins. of my instructional time.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.  Especially when it comes to reassuring the parent who a. has a child in Kindergarten, and b. doesn't speak English very well.  I'm really trying to make the parents feel comfortable with me and with the school environment, and these are the necessary steps, even though it's inconvenient.  I had to act as part translator (even though I don't speak her native language) and part caring teacher concerned with why my student was so upset about coming to my class.  

Another student had a major meltdown in the cafeteria right next to our table... screaming, needed to be restrained, lashing out violently, etc etc.  So the mother thought that set her off into getting upset and crying, which is totally possible.  Or she may have just woken up on the wrong side of the bed.  Never a dull day... I swear.

PS:  My kids are ROCKSTARS at lining up and being quiet in the hallway.  We started this routine today and already got complimented 3 times by other teachers in the halls.  One battle down... many more to fight.. :)

03 September 2008


I can't lie... day 2 was pretty great. You'll have to excuse me, but I'm so exhausted, I need to just do bullet points.

  • Had all 6 of my students today. They are on SUCH different levels... it's ridiculous. Whoever thought to put them all together was crazy.
  • My one student who is supposedly the "worst" wasn't there yesterday. So his mom brought him in today and I talked to her and stuff (4/6 parents met). She told me, and I quote "Mr. Difficult didn't get ANY sleep last night so he's very agitated. God bless your soul for dealing with him today, Lord knows I couldn't do it. He's going to be a handful... I feel so bad for you." SO... awesome. Well, turns out, he wasn't that bad. No major melt downs and he was really just not that bad. I guess I was just preparing for the worse.
  • That being said, he can barely hold an object. Motor skills are a huge thing that we need to work on with him. If I give him anything in his hands it either goes in his mouth or he slams it on the desk. Add that to the list of goals.
  • I changed my name today. I'm no longer Ms. [Last name], but now I'm Ms. [First name]. Those of you who know me in real life... it flows much better, right? Plus everyone from the summer knows me as Ms. [First name] and calls me that, so what's the point in changing it. I was afraid that using my first name would make me look young and like I had zero authority, but for kids as young as mine, it's better. A lot of the young teachers at my school do it. I feel much more comfortable with the name thing already.
  • The alumni association at my wonderful alma mater is collecting school supplies for us graduates who are NYC teachers... woo for going to a school with a strong alumni base. ;)
  • Still haven't figured out how to eat or go to the bathroom during the day. Prep periods are too busy at this point, lunch is rushed. I revel in the few moments that I leave the room to run errands.... sometimes you just need a break.
  • Two of my students (Mr. Talkative and Mr. Genius) totally shocked me today with how great their literacy skills are. No surprise, Mr. Talkative is an AMAZING reader. I was reading him a story, and he literally just jumped in and took over with the reading. Of a Berenstein Bears book nonetheless... not even an easy leveled book. He like cut me off.... I was shocked.
  • Mr. Talkative has incredible social skills for a child with "autism". I'm doubting his diagnosis, but then again, it's only the second day. And I haven't seen IEPs. There could be a lot of issues that I am just blind to right now... only time will tell.
  • I did a read aloud with my kids today (one of the very few things I actually feel confident doing in terms of teaching), and some of them got SO into it.... I finally felt like a real teacher. "Ms. A., Ms. A., TURN THE PAGE!!! I wanna see what happens next!!!" Seriously, the most rewarding thing I've heard so far.
  • Ms. Apprehensive was.... apprehensive as we approached her busing table. I took her to it and she immediately backed away and tried to run out of the school. I got a hold of her and coaxed her into coming back, trying to play with her and tickle her. So then, to make sure she was comfortable, I stayed with her until she left, making animal noises, acting out jungle animals... basically looking like a crazy fool. But she loved it and someone even said "Wow, and you've only known her 2 days?????" Another rewarding moment. (This is why I teach.)
  • I also got to pretend I was a 6 year old boy for a good half hour... playing action heros and ninjas while also teaching valuable lessons in working as teams and sharing resources (powers). All in the day of an "early childhood" teacher.
  • Last thing... I had a parent call (5/6 parents communicated with), and she told me flat out, "Don't send homework home with Mr. Dimples. I personally will not do it with him. I really don't want to see it in his folder." Hmmm... had no idea how to react so I was just like... ok! Like seriously, what do I say to that?
  • Ok, real last thing... started grad school classes today. Wasn't too bad, don't think it's gonna be a lot of work. I'm just going to be dying of exhaustion. That's all, no big.

02 September 2008

One down....

Well, I survived. Actually, I shouldn't say it like that because it wasn't that bad. I think the first day of my teaching career went about as well as it could have. Let me recap.

Got up pretty early (5am.. I know.) because I wanted to make sure I had my stuff together and got in early. Check and check. I had 2 huge bags and a bunch of posters to carry... fun, believe me. People on the subway are pretty interested in what you teach, where you teach, etc etc. So that made for some good convos. Plus, there were many other young, white, brand new teachers traveling up to the Bronx, so I had an impromptu pump up session with some other new teachers on the 2 train today. Pretty cool.

Got to school, calmed my nerves with a fellow fellow (har har har), and headed down to the cafeteria, where the kids come after busing and eat breakfast. For the longest while, I had no kids. Just me, alone, at the lunch table. Finally, they started trickling in, one by one. Here's a quick cast of characters:

Mr. Dimples: Pretty self explanatory why he has that name. He's non-verbal but according to the speech therapist, he's at the beginning stages of coherent words. So that will be very exciting to try to develop that in him. Fascinated with the window and looking out of it... makes me terrified (we're on the 4th floor). Poor motor skills, can't hold pencil, recognize letters, short attention span. Another teacher said he might be slightly mentally retarded, and I think I can see that in him. Cutest boy ever though... such a cuddle bug and just always wants to sit on your lap. Not potty trained... haven't had to deal with it yet.

Mr. Talkative: VERY difficult to understand this boy. He talks, and if you listen carefully, you understand. But I found myself saying "WHAT???" so many times today. I definitely need to learn "his language". He talks a lot though, and I'm sure it's great stuff, but I just need to become a better listener. Very smart boy, has great and imaginative ideas. Can write his name, identify letters, knows his numbers, etc etc. Don't have much more to say about him right now.

Mr. Genius: Came in with his mom who is very involved. A para mentioned that it could get annoying, and I can see that (maybe someday), but I think it's great and am really looking forward to parental involvement. He has an outside ABA therapist, which is great, and you can see it in his social skills. He's very polite and always answers small talk questions. Knows alphabet, can spell full name, also very imaginative. He told me all about the TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... they're now acronym-ized and the turtles are referred to as Mike, Raf, Donny, and Leo... hmm, strange...). Math seems to be his strong point and from my very very brief assessment, he's either right at grade level or even a little above, which is AMAZING.

Ms. Apprehensive*: She came in late and was brought in by her mother, so there's another parent met and hopefully impressed. She came to me willingly but was shy as we made our way up to my room. When we got to the room she just stood there and slowly backed out. She eventually came around but didn't want anyone to touch her... she needed to absorb her new atmosphere. Totally cool... I can completely relate. So we gave her her space, and about 5 minutes later, she came up to me ready to work. She quickly got into the routine but was really quiet. Then, in the afternoon, when I did her one on one assessment, I couldn't get her to STOP talking! We did a "picture walk" though a book, and she made up the entire story. Great imagination, amazing comprehension skills, and what impressed me most was how in tune she was to the characters feelings and emotions. This is often a source of trouble for people with autism, so I was amazed that she could tell me that this character is happy and I can tell because he's smiling.

The New Girl*: The new girl was brought to me, I was given a piece of paper, and was told, here's her mother (parent number 3 of the day). That's it. Tried to talk to the mother, but had a bit of a language issue. So I got the information I could but at the same time tried to make her feel as comfortable in the school as possible, because I'm sure it's intimidating. Come to find out at the end of the day, she's actually a Kindergarten student, not first grade like my others. But she still belongs in my class because it's an "early childhood" class. So I'm glad that I tried to reassure her mother and spend a little time talking to her.... I had no idea it was her first day of school. But with the limited info on the new girl it was hard to know what she was like. Was she verbal? Violent? Any self-stimming behavior? Allergies? I mean there are a ton of things you need to know, and I just wasn't given this information. She's an explorer and wouldn't leave the things on my desk alone. We're definitely going to have to remedy that. At first we were all a little wary of her, but by the end of the day she was playing with the others and seemed to fit right in. It was also difficult because for the entire day we didn't know how to correctly pronounce her name, but I discussed it with the mom after school, thank God. I'd hate to call a kid the wrong name for the whole year.

So that's my list so far. There's one more who didn't come today, I'm expecting him tomorrow. My day went relatively well. Here's an excerpt from a colleague about her first day (she has high school emotionally disturbed):

here is an example of what the kids did today: i was reading aloud a
survey of questions i wanted them to answer and this is what i got:
what is one strength of yours? fucking. that is what one kid wrote.

I'm glad my kids are cuddly and like to color. God bless those who have the strength and patience to deal with the emotionally disturbed group though. Another funny first day thing... another colleague of mine had a student eat (yes, eat) things in her class. Lesson plans, class decorations, supplies, etc. In his stomach.

So relatively, my day was GREAT.

*These names will be changed... Ms. Apprehensive will not be apprehensive forever and The New Girl will not be new forever.

01 September 2008

ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod....

Entering minor freak out mode. I've been calm up until now. 10pm the night before school starts. Typical me.

Meeting the kids in 10 hours. Ah what am I doing?????

31 August 2008

Baby beluga in the deep blue sea...

So I bought a Raffi CD for my class. And wow, does it bring back the memories!!

This should be sign number 1 that I am too young to be teaching... the things I get for my classroom are things that I remember from being a kid, and still love them. I mean how can you not love Raffi?!??!?

The CD is called "Animal Songs" so I'm pretty excited about all of it. The other CD that I got is a 4 disc set called "101 Toddler Favorites" (it's not Raffi, unfortunately). Some day, in the very far future, when I have kids... I'm going to be so good with the songs. I will probably know all 101 of those songs by the 2nd week of teaching. I'm not a fan of silence, especially in a class with 5 year olds, so we'll probably be playing music a lot. We'll see what the kids can handle I guess.

Anyways I need to start planning what we'll be doing on Tuesday... and also try to figure out if I actually have a curriculum, or if I simply follow the "I do what I want!" philosophy. I have a hunch that it's the latter of those two options...

30 August 2008

It's a small New York world.

Had another crazy small world moment yesterday. I went with some teacher friends to the Brooklyn Brewery (coolest place ever, btw) and literally ran into a friend that I studied abroad with. I knew he used to live in New York but thought he moved after graduation. We haven't kept in the best of touch but get a long great and used to be pretty good friends. Of course, we run into eachother in a borough that neither of us lives in.

I also ran into a good friend from high school who I haven't seen in 4 years. At the same place. So so so strange. I expected to see her there, but not the study abroad kid who I haven't seen in over a year, nor really ever planned on seeing again.

And this is why I love New York. In a city of 8 million people, I still randomly see people I know, don't feel lost in the shuffle, and can reconnect with people completely unexpectedly.

This morning in my semi-hungover and VERY sore state (moving classrooms around is tough), I realized, oh no, the teacher store! WHEN IS IT OPEN THIS WEEKEND???? Of course, it's only open today. And I'm supposed to be in the East Village in an hour to tailgate and watch the big game. And I still have to go to the teacher store and spend more of my life savings. So I should probably end this blog post and get going on that so I can have at least a little fun today.... :)

29 August 2008

Today I bought Dora band-aids.

And teddy grahams (snack food), dish towels (for the sink), a coffee maker (for the storage closet and obviously necessary coffee), and rolls and rolls of fadeless paper, and so so so much more. I knew you had to buy a lot of stuff when teaching... but phewie. But it will all be worth it I think. It already feels worth it.

If I could only use one word to sum up my experience so far, it'd be AMAZING. I am truly blessed to be in the situation I am. I read horror stories about NYC public schools, especially special ed, but my experience thus far has been MUCH different. It's definitely not the average though, and I'm well aware of all of the issues many of my colleagues are going through.

My paras are great. They know so much about the kids already and helped me set up my room and basically did anything that I asked. They gave me so much helpful input and really had great ideas. They even said they're going to teach me Spanish this year... woo! I don't think I'll have an issue with being the authority figure, which was my biggest fear earlier. I mean being a first year teacher is one thing, but being 22... I mean who listens to 22-year-olds?!??!?? But I think we'll be a great team.

My room is huge and is turning out nicely. As my cooperating teacher from the summer session said, "Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your classroom." And she's so right. But it's coming along. I still need to label EVERYTHING, make student schedules, laminate a bunch of things, etc etc, but so far so good. I found a huge brand new rug in the basement today, so I snatched that up ASAP. The AP didn't exactly give me the go ahead, but I can promise you, he's not missing it. My classroom would be. And so would my 5-year-olds who are going to be sitting, rolling, laying, and playing on it all day.

At the end of the day, I had to go to the office to get a few things and ran into my Principal, who I absolutely adore. I'm not on as close terms with the APs, but me and Ms. Principal are like BFFs. She gave me a hug and asked how it was going. I told her how excited I was about my room and how great my paras were, and she agreed that they were great. She told me I might have some issues with one, but I really appreciated her honesty. She told me to just stop worrying, that she knows I'm going to do great, and that it's going to be a great year. SO reassuring... she's just fabulous.

I have a huge shopping list for this weekend for school stuff.... then the big challenge is getting it from my aparment on the Upper West Side to my school in the Bronx. Hm. This weekend should be fun though... I'll be staying in the city but tomorrow is the start of college football!!! To celebrate, I'll be wearing my jersey and partying at my friends house and at one of the many bars in NYC devoted to Michigan fans. How exciting. The rest of the weekend will be spent getting ready for Tuesday!

PS: I didn't even look at my kids IEPs (individualized education plans) today, so I'm going to be totally surprised when they come in on Tuesday. I thought I was going to have to look at them to prevent a self imposed nervous breakdown, but I'm feeling shockingly calm about not seeing them. :)


I just woke up at 5:20 for work. The coffee can't come out of the pot fast enough.

This is going to be a challenge this year...

28 August 2008


Wow, where to begin.

Today was the first day of teachers reporting back. I was told to be there at 8:10am, but then found out that the stuff didn't start till 9. But we had to be there early. And do nothing.

Anyways, once we got started, it was a lot of boring administrative stuff via a huge staff meeting. Then, we got our class lists and schedules. I have 2 prep periods every day + lunch. So that's pretty awesome. And I have (as of right now) only 5 students. They're mostly actually 5 years old, even though it's first grade. So they're probably super teeny tiny and (hopefully) really cute.

Of course, I couldn't find my class. It's not numbered and no one knew which room it was, not even my AP (grrrrreat). We had to actually use the extention (same as my room number) and play "find the ringing phone" to find my room. But, eventually we found it and it was HUGE! It also came with about 20 desks and full size chairs. Of course, I don't need any of those, so me and my paras had a great time moving those.

My paras seem good, and everyone tells me I got lucky with them. They also know a lot, which is both good and bad. Good for obvious reasons, but bad because it's hard for me to feel like I'm the one really in charge. I'm doing a lot of what they're suggesting to me, and I don't want them to think its because I'm a push over or something, I just really have no clue what I'm doing at this point.

Anyways, I have to cut this short. I still need to figure out where I'm putting what in my room and figure out how I'm going to lug all of this up to the Bronx tomorrow.

Just letting you know that I survived.

19 August 2008

Miss A: Future Gossip Girl Star??

Well, today I got to see my first TV show being filmed. None other than the New York centric Gossip Girl. There have been these film trailers outside of the Columbia campus for a few days now, with the names "Lucy" and "Desi" on them. So I figured I'd walk through campus and see what I could see. First, I saw a huge group of people (I'm assuming they were extras) in ridiculously nice designer clothes. So that should have been my first clue.

So then I just walk across campus, and pass a sign basically saying that if you decide to walk past this you are releasing your rights to being filmed. By this point, I'm just thinking, "sweet, I'm going to be in a I Love Lucy remake." I walk right across the main "quad" type area and find a group of people standing there watching a limo scene. Hmm... limo in I Love Lucy?????

Then I quickly realize that I just walked straight across the set while filming. I feel bad for about a second, but then remember that no one stopped me so it must have been ok. I try to decipher the person in the limo but still have no clue. At first, I think it's Jude Law. Then, after closer examination, I realize that Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass) is looking directly at me. How embarassing. They continue the scene and he gets out of the limo and then the director announces that they're having a lunch break.

I hate to be the stereotypical Midwestern transplant, but I'm a tad star struck, even though I've seen Ed Westwick and Chace Crawford around Chelsea before, which is where Perez Hilton tells me that they live. So that's my first tw0-time celeb sighting and first time tv show filming sighting. Oh New York. Thank God I actually took the time to do my hair today, lest I actually show up in an episode.

PS: Read more about this here.

18 August 2008

SO thankful!

So I've realized, I'm SO lucky to already have a job. I seriously feel so blessed that it just fell straight into my lap with really zero grunt work on my behalf.

I'm reading all of these message boards on facebook and on the NYCTF website about there being just zero postitions within the NYC system and it's really shocking to me. Maybe it's just because I'm in special ed, which is such a high need area, but there are really slim pickings in terms of jobs. I guess the crappy economy has even affected education.

I've read a lot of posts about people going traditional route (getting a bachelors in ed.) and having to go their first year as a substitute in order ot establish the necessary connections to secure a job. Maybe these people just aren't willing to work in high-needs schools? I mean you get paid the same amount regardless of what school you work at. I just don't get it. I've also read a lot of things about age discrimination in hiring... it seems a lot of schools are looking for the enthusiastic, young teachers and not as much for the 50-year-old career changer teachers.

In more positive news, mom's visit was a complete success. On Tuesday, we went to visit my school and I think it's safe to say she was more than just impressed by the amazing atmosphere. I'm so glad that she liked it and felt comfortable, I think it was definitely a relief for her. Then we went to the REAL Little Italy.... Arthur Ave. in the Bronx. It was great... we learned about how to cook stomachs, ate some amazing sandwiches, and also indulged in quite possibly the best cannoli outside of Italy. Tuesday night, we saw RENT on Broadway. It was amazing and great and everything I hoped it would be. We stopped at a bar that I go to a lot on the way home, but only stayed for one drink because we were both exhausted.

On Wednesday, we slept in a little bit then did some tourist things. Walked around lower Manhattan near the WTC site and South Street Seaport, then did some good shopping in Soho. That evening we met up with a friend of mine for some great Latin food... something that is definitely harder to come by in Michigan. To end the night, we went to a German place to have a few huge German beers and relive the great Munich days. And to top it off, in true New York style, on the way home we stopped to get (what I think is) the best pizza in my area, and I think it's safe to say that Mom fell in love with New York pizza at that moment.

Thursday, we did some shopping for school stuff at Staples and home stuff at Bed Bath and Beyond. ((Thank you again, Mom!!!)) We just sorta wandered around the Upper West Side and had a pretty relaxing afternoon, capped off by some more pizza (at the same place, of course). Mom had to leave in the afternoon, right as a huge storm came in. Thankfully though, we didn't have any bad weather when she was here!

Next up, Dad's visit this weekend. And lots of rest and relaxation for me before I have to go back to work on the 28th. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

12 August 2008

NEWS FLASH: My cat is a dog.

Yes it's true...

I couldn't figure out why my cat wouldn't leave me alone as I'm watching all of the Olympic glory, then I realized, he just wanted to play catch.

He's obsessed with small pieces of paper and playing catch with them. He literally runs after them and then brings them back until you throw it again. Very bizarre behavior from a cat, no???

Olympic Fever

Every 2 years I get the Olympic fever.... and this time, it's baaaad.

First, our own little hometown hero Peter Vanderkaay got bronze in the 200 free for swimming today!! It's so cool to see someone from Rochester and someone so down to earth winning medals in the Olympics. He has a few more events in the next week or so (1500 free and 4x200 relay I think...), so be sure to watch for him and cheer him on!

I have a small beef with NBC though.... I know that Michael Phelps is pulling in the biggest ratings in Olympics history since 1976, but COME ON, give some other people some sort of spotlight too. It's amazing how much attention Phelps brings to the sport, but still. I got a little mad yesterday when Peter was in first going into tonights race, but it was still all about Phelps. They said maybe one word about Peter. Obviously, Michael Phelps wasn't going 100% and was conserving energy for his gold medal swim tonight, but they still should have given kudos where they were deserved. END RANT.

Second of all, I'm watching the men's gymnastics team competition and just falling in love with the USA mens team as they capture the bronze medal. I don't know why, but they're all just so cute! And trying so hard and get so excited because they're putting out amazing routines. I love it when people are passionate about sports like that... gives me the warm fuzzies for sure.

Can't wait to see what else the USA will do in these games... regardless of politics or who we mistakenly chose as our President, we should ALL be proud to be an American and admire those athletes for their amazing sportsmanship and dedication. Basically, if you can't tell, I'm in love. With the Olympics.

10 August 2008

Funny Video // Sunday

This is the funniest video ever... please watch.  Especially if you love Rick Astley.  

Today was the perfect Sunday.  Got up early, took a run in Riverside Park, went to a beautiful church, did some window shopping, bought some amazing books about autism, went to my favorite cafe, had some great coffee and did some reading, then came home and listed to the rain while reading some more.  And then had yummy left over spaghetti for dinner.

Sunday is definitely my favorite day of the week.  

And Mom comes in 2 days!!!  We have lots planned, I'm super excited for her to finally see my neighborhood, apartment, and general New York things that I do all the time now. :)

06 August 2008

God Bless Target

I was in a rather foul mood when I had to wake up this morning at 6 am and travel 1 hr 28 mins (according to to get to a workshop at the end of the Earth in Brooklyn this morning.  However, this was all reversed when I emerged from the subway station and saw a gleaming, huge, new, Target!!!!!

Not having been in a Target for 2 months is harder than I thought.  I don't know how I did it when I lived in Germany. 

Did you know that Target has a smell???  All Targets smell the same!  It all came back to me when I walked in.  Anyways the whole reason for this renewed love affair is their $1 section right when you get in the store.  Someone at Target is VERY smart and must be my cosmic twin, because this week their theme (or whatever) is TEACHER THINGS!!!!  

I've been worrying about getting things for my class for a long time.  I have this horrible nightmare that my classroom will be bare and my students won't have the games, toys, and manipulatives that they need in order to be successful learners.  Part of it is an irrational fear, but I think a lot of it is quite legitimate.

So today, I got a ton of puzzles (stuff like colors, body parts, letters, etc), pencils (for the treasure box), books, stamps, clippy things for the white board, flashcards, and a bunch of other $1 things that I thought would be useful.  So I got 2 huge bags of stuff, and it cost under $25!!!!!!!

Basically, I'm elated and relieved.  Thank you Target, for always being there for me.

05 August 2008

It's a small world after all....

Yes indeed it is. In the past few days, I've had the smallest world encounters. In a city with over 8 million people, you wouldn't think you'd see people as much as you do. But Manhattan is a very small island. Very small.

Example 1:
There's this woman who I see every morning on my commute. We both get on the train at 96th and ride it uptown, with her going somewhere past my stop in the Bronx. We always end up in the same train car, which makes sense because it's the fastest way to get out of the station depending on where the stairs are. And after riding the train every morning and having a commute where a 30-second hustle can make the difference in 20 minutes, every little bit counts. Anyways. Seeing this woman every morning is normal, and not too uncommon in rush hour New York.

However, on SATURDAY afternoon I saw her!!! And not even on the train that we ride into the Bronx every morning, but on a different one!!!! This random lady, in a city of 8 million people, and I see her everyday, INCLUDING THE WEEKENDS NOW. Like wtf. I mean it's not a bad thing, she seems very nice, but how strange is that. We smiled at each other because we obviously recognized one another but didn't say anything. When I got off, I waved goodbye. Very strange and awkward.

Example 2:
On Fridays in July, we had workshops for NYCTF that we had to go to (ahemagainstourwillahem). There was this girl in mine, I think she said she lived and worked in Brooklyn. Then today, I'm sitting on the train minding my own business, reading Random Family, and all of the sudden, I look up, and she's across from me! Had another awkward smile and "hey how's it going" type conversation (luckily my stop was next because there's only so much awkwardness I can handle). But seriously. What are the chances???

Example 3:
On Thursday, I was walking around the UWS (Upper West Side for all of you who aren't down with the cool sounding New York lingo), and I saw this transsexual (male to female if you must know). She was dressed very loudly an obviously stood out. No big. Then on Friday, I saw her like 30 blocks farther uptown on my block. I mean, she's not hard to notice. But seeing the same person, 30 blocks away, 2 days in a row... very strange. Right place at the right time, I guess.

Many people have also heard the story of me seeing an old accquaintence (how do you spell this??) in my neighborhood while sitting in my favorite cafe in June. And he's not from New York, doesn't live here. But was just walking around, randomly uptown. How do you explain that?

I wonder if all of these chance encounters are fate or if it's more common than we think. I vote for the latter of the two. Any ideas on the matter?


So someone came across my blog by searching "2 in his pants" on google.  Yep, 2 as in poop.  I hope they found what they were looking for.

Anyways training is over = FREEDOM!  Had some great celebrations with fellow Fellows this past weekend... I already feel like I'm in withdraw though from my Fellows friends and just from having stuff to do!  This will pass though, I'm sure.  I don't miss the masters classes, but I do miss the kids.  I'll be seeing enough of them soon though.

So today on my first official day off, I went to the beach.  Me and a friend took the Long Island Railroad all the way out to Long Beach, which is, you guessed it, on Long Island.  It was a beautiful day and I greatly enjoyed being by the ocean... it's been too long.

30 July 2008

Random Subway Fact

The number 3 reason why subways run late is....

because people hold the doors open for friends.

Ta da.  A very perturbed subway conductor let all of us passengers know this useful bit of info while I was on one of the SIX subway lines that I rode today.

Only 2 more days until the madness stops.  To a certain extent.  And only for August.

Come September.... game on.

29 July 2008

Blogging Loser

I know I've been a bit of a blogging loser lately, but things have been nuts and I've been just trying to keep up.  

As some of you may have heard, I did indeed get bit and pinched by a student.  It wasn't as bad as it sounds though... didn't break the skin.  I had a small bruise from the pinch but nothing that really even warranted an accident report.  The student knew it was wrong and immediately had an adverse reaction to what he did (he cried within like 1 second of biting me).  He also wrote me a very sweet apology note.  Sometimes the kids we work with with such severe disabilities can't help what they do in terms of physical aggression, so you just gotta roll with the punches (literally and figuratively).

This video is really interesting regarding autism.  It was made by a 20-something girl with autism who I'm assuming is non-verbal (like many of my students).  It's like 9 minutes long but you might be able to skip through some of it, but you get the general message.

At the recommendation of one of my teaching friends, I've started reading Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc.  Here's a short summary and review.  This book is so real and so honest about the problems that "normal" people face in the Bronx... it makes me look at things in an entirely different light.  Especially since a lot of the places in the book I've been to, or even am near every single day.  These are the places I work and the types of situations my students are seeing everyday.  It's completely mind-blowing.  So, if you get the chance and are at all interested in hearing an objective first-hand account about what life's REALLY like in the ghetto, check it out.

I'll post a more substantial update soon.... only 3 more days left of training!!!  Thank God... I don't think I could have handled any more.  Seriously.

17 July 2008


Today, I got offered a position for the fall!  I'll be teaching in the school that I'm currently student teaching in, and couldn't be happier.  Everyone at the school is so friendly and supportive of one another... I already feel like I fit in.  Tentatively, I'll be teaching 6:1:1 first grade, kids with autism.  So basically, little babies with autism.  I'm praying that I don't get switched to a different situation last minute, because I know that happens all the time.  But for now, I'm glad that that's what I will most likely have.

The principal just came into the room I'm in and asked to see me.  It basically went something like this:

Principal: Miss A, can I see you out in the hall for a sec?
Me: Umm sure! 
P: Alright, this might be semi-unprofessional of me to do this this way, but I want to offer you a posi-
Me: YES!
P: -tion for the fall, 6:1:1, first grade.
Me: Of course, I'd love to!  That's exactly what I want to do!  I love this school!  I love the teachers!  I love everyone!  (Ok this might be exaggerated but this is what I feel like I said)
P: Well we're really happy to have you, I think you'll do excellent here.
Me: Oh my gosh, thank you, can I give you a hug??
((hugging happens))
P: Alright well that's it, congratulations and welcome!

So basically, yeah, I was awkward and giddy but I was soooo excited.  My cooperating teacher gave me the recommendation and knew I was getting the offer today and said she tried so hard not to tell me this morning.  

I'm just so amazed that it happened so easily!  No interview, no demo lesson.... I mean I've talked to the Principal before and she's seen me interact w/ the kids, but nothing really super structured.  Those sort of things always make me really nervous, so I just feel so so lucky and blessed!

Anyways, I will write more later... time to go celebrate!

14 July 2008

A newfound appreciation

And this newfound appreciation is, of course, for coffee.  I suppose I've never really NEEDED it before, but now I know and can really experience it's magic powers.  Almost drug-like, I'd say.  I don't even care where it's from, as long as it's black and cheap-ish.

This past week was most definitely my week of hell... everyday I got home at around 7:30 pm and then had at least one paper due everyday.  On Friday, we had a workshop about crisis intervention, which was interesting, but I was not happy to wake up at 6 am on a Friday.

Then on Saturday I had to take two important teaching tests.  I HAVE to pass them in order to become a teacher, and this was basically the last opportunity to do so.  But I think they went ok... I don't want to be too overconfident but I feel very good about how I did. 

Other things in life are going really well... after those tests on Saturday I had a great night out with friends (new and old... like two worlds colliding) and then on Sunday I went out to a great German restaurant in the East Village for a friends birthday.  So overall, despite the whole "hell week" and "super-important-must-pass test" parts, it was a pretty social weekend.

The class I'm working with is still very enjoyable.  Although I'm not getting as much traditional experience as NYCTF is saying we should be getting (i.e. teaching an actual lesson), I'm getting a ton of one on one instruction time and really learning more about autism and how to best communicate with these kids.  Which, in my opinion, is what I need the most experience in anyways.  

It's kind of funny... I have a lot of friends who went into field training saying "oh yeah, I wanna work with kids with autism... without a doubt, I could never do ED (code for emotionally disturbed), etc etc."  And now, after working with ED kids in their summer placement, it seems like so many are switching over to wanting to work with ED.  Which I find VERY interesting.  Probably just because ED scares the hell out of me, especially at the middle school level.  I'd be very happy with my sweet, loving, autistic students.  

Anyways, while I was shopping this past weekend I got two great cards from Quotable Cards (which I am obsessed with).  And they pretty much sum up why I'm teaching and why I'm putting myself through all of this.  So I leave you with a little inspiration (which are hanging on my door to see every time I open it):

"Risk more than others think is safe, care more than others think is wise, dream more than others think is practical, expect more than others think is possible." -Cadet Maxim

"Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground.  Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it." -Wilferd Peterson

09 July 2008

It's the little things...

It's finding an inexpensive healthy/organic food store right around the corner (inexpensive AND healthy... quite the oxymoron, I know).

It's when a kid finally understands the concept of subtraction and gets so excited about it.  And you can see his excitement by the light in his eyes and his flailing arm movements, because he can't talk.

It's 4 different people commenting on how much they like your Jesus/Pochahontas sandals and how "in style" they are right now, even though you've had them for over a year.

It's seeing the same people on the commute everyday.  In a city as big as New York, there are about 10 strangers I see on a daily basis.  I'd be worried if one of them were missing.

It's one of those strangers striking up a conversation with you about where you go and what you do, and saying "see you tomorrow", because in reality, you will.  At 7 am nonetheless.

It's an amazing para who asks for your instruction and advice when dealing with the students, even though it's really only your 4th day.  It's all about validation... in the end it's what we're all looking for.

It's a teacher (co-worker teacher, not my teacher) being disappointed when you say you aren't going to lunch with her today because you have to get to school.

It's bringing delicious eggplant parmesan leftovers for lunch.

These things make life really pretty great.

(PS: I may have been incorrect about the "autistic child"/"child with autism" thing... I've read so many official (or whatever) things that say use autistic as an adjective.  So whereas I may not personally agree with it, I suppose it is acceptable.  But we always use adjectives to modify the noun, and I don't believe that autism modifies a person, but that the person is still a person, just with different abilities.  Ok, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.  Just my two cents!)

08 July 2008

A peek into my mind

Again, sorry for the randomness of this post, but life is really too crazy for me to write anything more than dis-jointed statements about life right now.  But you get the jist of it.  DISCLAIMER: A lot of what I have to say specifically has to deal with children on the autistic spectrum and might not be applicable to all populations of students.

  • I've now been student teaching for 3 days and have learned more in those 3 days than I have in the 3 weeks I've had of masters classes so far.
  • I'm in a classroom of 7 children with autism (6 of whom are non-verbal, ages 9-11) and 2 paras****... I'm so pleased with my situation that it scares me.  Like should things really be this great???  I've heard horror stories about paras, but the ones in my classroom are like angels on Earth who truly care about the students and their success.
  • In the past three days I've witnessed a child having "an accident" (i.e. going #2 in his pants), another one tried to kiss me and thinks he is my boyfriend, another who is as fast as a lightening bolt and tried to run out of the class, a visit by CPS and serious problems at home, a parent who couldn't be more involved with her child's education, and another who has the most beautiful eyes and just stares at me for long periods of time.  Like gets up about 2 inches from my face and just stares and smiles.  You always hear of a lot of children with autism having issues with looking people in the eye, but you can never assume anything with kids about what they can or can't do.
  • Along with that, you can't assume what these children's home lives are like, what their intelligence level is, what they comprehend, etc.  The only safe assumption (in my opinion) is that even though a child may be non-verbal, they can still HEAR you and understand what you're saying.  A teacher should never talk about a student negatively or condescendingly in front of them.  You would never do it if they were verbal, so don't do it if they aren't.
  • I've also seen a lot of things that I'd do differently in the classroom, but have also gotten many good ideas about what works and things regarding classroom management of kids with special needs.
  • I've learned that I LOVE working with kids with autism... they're SO incredibly intelligent and so different.  Each one has different triggers, both positive and negative.  One of my students cannot speak and has some behavior management issues, but you get him on the computer and he will google anything and everything about Star Wars/Star Trek and knows how to find images, toys, information, etc.  It's amazing!!  He just knows how to do it without any instruction.  These kids have deep interests and obvious learning styles, the key is to tap into that and expand it.
  • "Autistic children" is not PC... it's "children with autism" or also commonly referred to as "children on the autistic spectrum".  It's a mouthful, but you'd never describe a person with cancer as a "cancerous person".  There are cancerous cells and masses, just as there are autistic behaviors or tendencies.  But people themselves are not cancerous or autistic. 
  • I feel so lucky to have found something that feels like more than just a JOB, but it's something that I actually don't mind getting up at 6am for.  Imagine that.  I'm already in love with these students after only 3 days, I can't imagine how I'll feel with my own class of students.
  • SCHOOL IS HARD.  Ugh... this week especially.  Every day I leave the house at 7 am, get home at 7 pm.  Then every day I have a paper to write.  And then other things to do.  And on Saturday I have to take two make-or-break tests and pass them both.  I'm not too too nervous about it, but still, just one more thing.
  • New York is an amazing city and I feel so blessed to be able to live here and experience different people, areas, and situations everyday.  The possibilities really are endless.
  • Happy happy birthday to my amazing Mom, I don't know what I'd do without you and you give me so much support and love, I can't even imagine going through all of this without having you as my soundboard!  
That's all I can think of for now... it's 11:20 and I still have another 2-3 page paper to write for tomorrow.  Oh life.

****Para = teacher's aid, paraprofessional, paraeducator, however you wish to call it.  There are 1:1 paras for students requiring more intense supervision and may need help toileting/feeding, behavioral paras, academic paras (for students with learning disabilities), and just general paras.  There have been many issues raised about the dedication and commitment of some paras, but I think that those few bad apples give a horrible reputation for all paras, who are on the whole committed to the students and are great people and coworkers.