Cause it’s the little things…

Hang on…Hang on.  Cause it’s the little things, yeah – it’s the little things, that do us harm. -Dr. Dog (one of my favorite bands ever)

It is the little things.  Yes it’s the little remarks and foul mouths, it’s the little negative attitudes, hissy fits and tantrums.  It is the little meetings, little lunches and little cries.  All of these little things…adding up to create “just one of those days”.  But please, hang on.  Hang on, everyone!  


Because those other little things like a thank you, a smile and a hug…the little “i’m sorrys” from one student to another, the little “I got your backs” and “ah ha” are moments that are SO necessary for success.  We can’t give up or say we’ve had it.  We are IT – that’s all and if we give in to these negative little things and forget all the positive little things, well then…what?

1e25a5dbb3810510dd9ef4df88c5facbbecause you are it.


Guidance Suite Day 1

Guidance Suite

First off, I apologize for the lack of updates this year.  Some major life changes (did I mentioned I’m engaged?? he put a ring on it!) and also a career change (guidance counselor, woopwoop!) have taken a toll on my free time.  My goal is one post every two weeks, so please check back often for updates!

Today is day one of decorating my guidance suite for the 2013-2014 school year and I couldn’t be more trilled!  I work at a Charter School in Philadelphia  (same one that I worked as a special education teacher) with grades kindergarten, 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th grade.  There will be approximately 450 students across these six grades.  School starts September 9th and I’m working on decorating (obviously…its the best part!) and putting my schedule together (HELP!).  I will also be researching the topics for this coming school year.  Does your school have a monthly character trait? If so, tell me more!

Positive Behavior Intervention & Support (PBIS) is in FULL SWING this coming school year!  “School Culture” is very important to us, so we’ve changed the title of PBIS to The School Culture Team.  We are working on our “big 8” systems and modeling/role playing with the staff during orientation.  We spent a lot of time this summer with our School Culture Team and designed these school-wide and in-class systems such as arrival, dismissal, hallway transitions, getting supplies in the classroom, etc.  Our staff will hear all about of these proposed systems during the next few weeks and work within grade teams to choose what works well for them.  These systems are written as scripts and seem so silly to write but even sillier to act out (and super entertaining, I must say).  When you act out your plan (literally pretend your staff is your students) you realize what works and what is too wordy.  It can be as small as saying “collect materials” instead of “put your materials away”.  Practicing through role play has also been effective in showing teachers exactly what we mean – when we say repeat, we mean it.  When you do it the way it is written, it will be more effective (especially since we spent so much time tweaking it!).  Have you had any experience writing “scripts”? if so, how did it go over with your staff?

One more small change we are making this year is that students are allowed to be in zone 2 (quiet) in the hallways and during transitions instead of zone 1 (silent).  The reason for this is we are modeling REAL LIFE.  Have you ever had to be silent in a mall hallway? how about an office building?  We want to show our students how to act in the real world.  I’m hoping teachers find this as a blessing and that this maximizes learning time.  Do students have to be silent in your hallways during transitions? How does that work for you?

Best of luck with your school year!  I have a feeling this will be the BEST ONE YET!  enjoy!

Remember, your students & school are a reflection of YOU!  (quoted by my amazing Principal) 🙂 

Award-Winning/Summer planning

Happy summer to all my fellow teachers out there! Before I start planning the work I’ll be doing, I wanted to share a special announcement!  During our week long professional development, I was awarded “The Most Innovative” teacher award!  It was such an honor to be recognized for all the hard PBS work I’ve done over the past school year.  This  was also SUCH a POSITIVE way to end the school year!!!!

Even though I decided to take the summer off, I’m still working (about to start working) on PBS related things.  My dream of sitting in a coffee shop for hours starting to plan and design should take place sometime next week.  Here is a preview of the works in the making:

  • Creating matrix for Beginning of year stations
  • Lesson plan template to School Collective
  • Calendar of events for 2012-2013 (draft)
  • Ticket and Incentive Systems- Staples/Business cards Navy and Gold
  • Set a goal for positive comments
  • Menu system for students
  • Teacher expectations and Station Rotation
  • School-wide awards for the week- Lunch, Cleanest Classroom, EXP Arts, etc

I look forward to sharing all of this with you upon completion. Positive and productive wishes to all!

annndddd we’re off! PBS C.A.R.E.S. Kickoff Celebration!

Hello Education World! Just a quick update about our School-wide PBS!  We had our kick off celebration today where students learned about our POSITIVE BEHAVIOR SUPPORT plan and incentive program!  See the Prezi students followed (Vare C.A.R.E.S Prezi -just click the play button) which shows all our school-wide expectations!  In addition, students watched a Behavioral Expectations video (starring our students, of course) that showed students how to follow our new behavioral expectations.  Our PBS team did a great job presenting about each area (cafeteria, hallway, stairway, office, bathroom & classroom).

Students really enjoyed the presentation which also included a clip from The Electric Company starring Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman about “Honest John” so we could have a discussion about honesty – which tied all of our expectations together.  It was an awesome feeling to see all the positivity today and hopefully this school wide program will help our students become the best they can be!

Lets Design a School-wide Positive Behavior Support Plan!

When attempting to implement an individual behavior plan, it is often difficult to monitor and implement.  When researching best practices, I started researching Positive Behavior Support Plans.  PaTTAN (which is the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network is to support the efforts and initiatives of the Bureau of Special Education, and to build the capacity of local educational agencies to serve students who receive special education services) has TONS of resources to help my mind start flowing.  Also, lets not forget “The TA Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports which has been established by the Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of Education to give schools capacity-building information and technical assistance for identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective school-wide disciplinary practices.”  Gosh, I LOVE the internet!

First thing first, what behavior supports do we have in place, what works and what doesn’t?  This being our first year as a Charter School, nothing has been particularly set in stone.  We have our motto, “Be Respectful, be Responsible and most of all, be Successful“.  And…thats about it!  PaTTAN also has a checklist to help me create this School-wide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS) Plan!

This SWPBS would be the Tier I of the triangle continuum (pictured below).  According to the Positive Support and Intervention website, “one of the foremost advances in school-wide discipline is the emphasis on school-wide systems of support that include proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. Instead of using a piecemeal approach of individual behavioral management plans, a continuum of positive behavior support for all students within a school is implemented in areas including the classroom and nonclassroom settings (such as hallways, buses, and restrooms). Positive behavior support is an application of a behaviorally-based systems approach to enhance the capacity of schools, families, and communities to design effective environments that improve the link between research-validated practices and the environments in which teaching and learning occurs. Attention is focused on creating and sustaining primary (school-wide), secondary (classroom), and tertiary (individual) systems of support that improve lifestyle results (personal, health, social, family, work, recreation) for all children and youth by making targeted behaviors less effective, efficient, and relevant, and desired behavior more functional.”

Now I’m starting to gather research, find other middle schools in the area that have SWPBS in their school and create the outline for my ideas.   If you, or someone you know has any information on what has worked (or hasn’t!) ESPECIALLY at the middle school level…please message me!  Thanks for reading, updates will be coming soon.

Work into Life

It is November of my first year of teaching at a Charter School in South Philadelphia.  I am currently a Special Education teacher (learning support) for all 8th grade students.  In addition to teaching, I’m the Vare’s Communications Liaison…a fancy name for a web manager.  Work means a lot to me, but so does my social life and I plan to put it all together right here.