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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Feeling Generous? I Need Some Help!


Happy Saturday, everyone! I don't usually post things like this, but I currently have a project listed at Donors Choose that expires in just a few days and I'd love any help I can get! The project is around halfway funded and if it expires before getting the rest of the way there, the money just goes back to the donors and can't help my kids!

Many of the students I work with have Autism or other social deficits. Many of the things you and I take for granted, such as understanding social cues, dealing with stress, or having friendships, are extremely difficult for my students. And on top of that, most of my students do not learn information through their ears; they have to use pictures or other visual cues instead. By using an iPad, I can teach social skills lessons in the ways my students learn. There are so many amazing social skills and communication apps that have been developed, but I can't use any of with them without an iPad. Everything from communicating effectively, to identifying emotions, to learning how to cope with stress and frustration can be taught with only one device. And now that Apple has developed the iPad Mini, my kids can have all of that for a much lower price. This is where we need your help!

If you're not able to financially donate, you can still share my project with other people you know who might be interested! That would be a huge help in getting me to my goal.

Right now, you can also use the matching code "HoraceMann12" to double your donation. Anything will help and all donations are tax deductible! Thanks :)
Update: My project got funded!! Thank you all for helping to spread the word :) My kids are SO excited!

Friday, March 29, 2013

New Product :: Behavior Punch Cards - Seasonal Pack


I'm really excited about this next product! I already have Positive Behavior Punch Cards on my store at TeacherspayTeachers, but a few weeks ago I added a couple more packs of them.

We all know visual reinforcement for behavior is always best and these punch cards are a fun, easy way to encourage your students to show appropriate behavior. Some ideas for use include homework completion, attendance, appropriate behavior during the day – the possibilities are endless! This pack includes 10 different cards.

These cards are presented in PDF format, which means you can print them as many to a page as you want – I recommend between 4, 6, or 9.

Themes include:

- Christmas - Halloween
- HolidayScreen Shot 2013-03-25 at 12.13.28 PM
- Leaves
- Rain
- Snowman
- Spring
- St. Patrick's DayScreen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.53.15 PM
- SunScreen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.31.49 PM
- Valentine's DayScreen Shot 2013-02-09 at 11.54.09 AM




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fun Freebie :: Grading Pen Fonts

Grading Pen Pack Cover

In the past I've never posted anything like this, but I thought it might be a nice change! If you're into creating your own teaching/counseling materials, you probably know that one of the best ways to create eye-catching stuff is to use your own fonts. I'm not saying there's anything wrong per-say with the fonts that come on your computer, but they just tend to get a little blah after awhile.

Recently, I came across a really awesome app that allowed me to create my own font right on my iPad. I gave it a try and here's what I came up with:


Not too bad, huh?  For fun, I put it up in my TpT Store as a freebie AND you can use it for personal things or commercial products!  I always appreciate blog link-backs and credits if you're feeling generous, but I'm not going to come after you or anything if you don't!


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Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Product :: Behavior Punch Cards - Themed Pack


I'm really excited about this next product!  I already have Positive Behavior Punch Cards on my store at TeacherspayTeachers, but yesterday I added another pack of them.

We all know visual reinforcement for behavior is always best and these punch cards are a fun, easy way to encourage your students to show appropriate behavior. Some ideas for use include homework completion, attendance, appropriate behavior during the day – the possibilities are endless! This pack includes 19 different cards. Most are already colored for you, but a few are blank to allow your students to personalize them with their own color choices!

These cards are presented in PDF format, which means you can print them as many to a page as you want – I recommend between 4, 6, or 9.

Themes include:

- Ice Cream
- OwlsScreen Shot 2013-03-15 at 10.09.35 PM
- TicketsScreen Shot 2013-02-09 at 11.28.36 AM
- "Star Student"
- Flowers
- Puzzle PiecesScreen Shot 2013-02-09 at 11.32.15 AM
- Handprints
- Stars- Splatter Paint


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tips & Tricks :: Dealing with Angry Parents


We've all had it - an angry phone call that just happens to come as you're walking out of the room to eat your lunch, an enraged parent who stays well into the next several parent-teacher conference times yelling at you and providing entertainment to the ever-growing line of impatient people waiting for their turn, or an accusatory e-mail that questions where you got your degree and how on Earth they ever let you become a teacher because you obviously hate children. I mean, teaching's the easiest job in the world, right!?

The good news is that you're not alone. Any job that involves providing services to others is going to unavoidably involve customer service issues. The only problem? We're not really trained to deal with customer service issues. We're trained to help kids learn to read, make friends, do math, manage their emotions, solve problems, follow directions, and become productive members of society. We don't take classes on how to stay calm, friendly, and professional while being insulted, accused, or intimidated! So here are some strategies you can use to calm the fire, build rapport, and engage the parent's problem-solving skills to better work together for the good of their child!


I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but I have been able to use it to my benefit many times.  Obviously, consider your own safety and choose a private place, but one that is in close proximity to others in case of emergency, like your classroom or office. It may also help to have other staff members present who work with the student as well (special education teachers, social workers, administrators, etc.) The reason I recommend in-person meetings is because you can use your body language to set the tone and direction of the conversation. Sit or stand tall and confidently, and lean in toward the parent slightly when they are talking. I've also found that it can to situate yourself slightly (but not too much!) below eye level of the angry parent - this helps them to feel more "in-control," which tends to be a sure-fire way to get them to calm down faster. It's also a lot harder for parents to stay angry for a long time when your body language is calm and attentive. It's harder to do this on the phone when all they can see/hear is your voice! Another tip I have is that if you are seated at a table, keep all your muscles relaxed - it's a proven fact that our body starts entering "fight or flight" mode when we clench our muscles; seriously...try it!


This part can be really difficult, especially when angry parents start the conversation accusing you of ruining their child, not knowing what you are doing, or questioning your character. However, nothing you say at this point can possibly make the situation any better. I once worked with someone who explained that we all lose about 20 IQ points when we're really upset. If a parent is still very upset, they won't even hear you. Instead, allow them to completely vent their thoughts. After they pause for a few seconds, THEN you can have your turn. Cutting them off in the middle of their opening argument is only going to make them feel more frustrated and unheard. So whatever you do, just let them talk!


This is just plain ol' counseling 101. Acknowledge that the parent is upset and apologize for the situation. Then, express how important their child is to you and communicate your desire to find a solution to address their concerns.


Yes, the social worker just told you to ignore your feelings (go figure, right?) Regardless of how temping it may be to yell back, walk out of the room, or otherwise alert the angry parent to how insane they currently are, don't. This conversation isn't about you - it's about a parent and their (quite possibly unreasonable) opinions regarding you and their child's education. I know this is difficult, believe me, but you can have your venting time later...just keep it together for the next 15 minutes or so. You can do it!


Through my various encounters with upset parents over the years, I've found that their anger often stems from one or more of the following:

- the parent's negative past experiences or opinions regarding education
- frustration that their child is not living up to the hopes/expectations they had in their mind for their child
- parent feels as though their student's needs are not being met or are not being met the way they want
- parent feels as though their thoughts haven't been considered
- parent's lack of social or coping skills or their own mental health difficulties

I would say that over 90% of the time, the issue is one of these issues, so don't take the anger personally. DON'T DON'T DON'T DON'T GET DEFENSIVE!!! If the issue is related to something you didn't handle well, the only real option is to admit your mistake, apologize, and move on.

What this means is that the overarching issue is rarely the one they are actually discussing with you! Now, don't get me wrong - you'll have to address the current issue. Just acknowledge to yourself that their anger/feelings are probably more indicative of a larger issue. Which leads me to...


Here are some examples of things parents might actually be thinking when they say certain things, as well as what you can do about it:

  • My kid never had problems last year!
    - "I'm frustrated that no one else has told me about this problem before!"
    - "I don't understand what you're doing that my child is struggling with."
    > Provide a description of the differences between this and last year and outline your classroom procedures/methods
    > Mention some positives about the student

  • My child does NOT have a learning/behavior/social problem!
    "I can't bring myself to admit that my child might have a learning/behavior problem."
    "Was it something I did? This is all my fault."
    "Are they ever going to be able to go to ________ (graduate, go to college, have a normal life, etc.)?"
    > Back off a bit by loading up on positives about the student's performance, while also squeezing in a few of your concerns gently and in a way that conveys that you have the child's best interests in mind. Some parents actually go through the grieving process when their child is diagnosed with a disability, so take it slow!

  • You keep _________ and I think it's stupid/ridiculous/wrong, etc.
    "I don't understand what you're doing. Please explain it to me."
    "I don't feel like you're listening to my ideas about my child."
    > Explain your rational for doing the thing the parent expresses dislike for
    > Ask for suggestions from parent and attempt to find a compromise

  • I have better things to do than come in and talk to you.
    "I feel really uncomfortable and awkward in social or school situations."
    "I am stressed out in my current life and don't know how I can fit something else in."
    > Acknowledge that schedules are busy and offer alternatives to in-person meetings


Repeatedly bring back the discussion to the student. Acknowledge the parent's feelings, but shift back to concrete, measurable data regarding the student. Have discipline referral data, grades, progress monitoring, behavior counting, etc. readily available. Throughout this process, keep reiterating your desire to work with the parent to help the child do the best he or she can. Also avoid statements like, "I have a difficult time teaching when Johnny is up out of his seat all the time," which shift the attention onto you. Even, I-Messages shift the focus back onto you and away from the child, so try to avoid them if you can (I know, I know...just this once. They're great for general daily problem-solving!).


Asking questions like, "What can I do right now to better meet your child's needs," "What types of things does your child enjoy at home," or "What strategies have been helpful for your child in the past," activate the problem-solving areas of the parent's brain, which are separate areas than those activated during anger or stress. These types of open-ended questions can also help a parent to feel included in their child's educational planning. I often say things like, "you know your child better than we all possibly can," to help them feel as if they hold the power.


  • "I have 25 other students. I can't ______."
    > It's not about you! This is their baby you're talking about after all!

  • "You need to take your student to the doctor."
    > Saying this can get your school into major trouble and could even put them in a position to have to pay for any medical bills the child incurs. Be very careful about suggesting outside services and check with your building administrators regarding how they would like you to handle these situations.

  • "In 16 years of teaching I have never seen a student __________."
    > This shifts focus onto you and away from the child. It also doesn't convey a lot of confidence to the parent that you'll be able to help their child, which can be very frightening and discouraging.

  • Anything with the words "mental retardation."
    > I'm sad I even need to say this, but it's not 1970. Those are outdated medical terms. Please use the current language!


Sometimes, you'll encounter a situation involving a parent who is extremely aggressive, threatening, or just not in a place to have any type of conversation. At these times, it's definitely not inappropriate to suggest that you continue the conversation at a later date or when other individuals (administrators, other staff members, etc.) can be present. Do the best you can to build rapport and a feeling of teamwork with the parent, but always consider your safety! If a parent seems unable to calm down after venting for several minutes, a conversation at that time probably won't be very productive anyway.

Sure, conversations with angry parents will never be the best part of your day, but hopefully these tips will help you feel more confident during your next tough interaction. Remember, you are the expert on education, but the parent is the expert on their kid!

If you can stay calm, convey an attitude of patience and concern, and activate the parent's problem-solving skills, you both have the power to create a very powerful, collaborative relationship to help your students do the best they can! And after all, isn't that why we're in this anyway?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sale :: Lucky St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patricks Day

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day (and out of mild happiness that I don't have to forget to wear green again and get pinched by 60 kids this year), I'm offering 10% off at my store today!

So whether you're Irish or not, invite a few friends head on over to TpT and save on everything in my store. You don't need a code or any type of tricky leprechaun magic; the discount will be taken off automatically when you check out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Tips & Tricks :: Strateges From a Former Headstrong Child (and Currently Headstrong Adult)

Screen Shot 2013-03-16 at 11.41.22 AM

People think I'm crazy when I tell them that my favorite students to work with are those with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, but I'll tell you why! As a child, I sent my parents through the ringer - I tested limits, insisted on doing things my own way, and generally defied most types of authority they gave me. So, I often see a lot of myself in these kids! Also, these kids have often had very negative school experiences in the past and you have a huge ability to make a difference in their lives. What an opportunity!

Here are some things I've heard from "difficult and defiant" students in the past:

- "Maybe if I'm so mean to this sub, she'll never come back."
- "But SHE never respects me!"
- "If I never do what I'm supposed to, it'll irritate him!"
- "Maybe if I can get the teacher to lose control again it'll show everyone else how crazy they are."

You'll notice there is one thing connecting each of these thoughts: POWER. That being said, the best way to get defiant kids to do what you want them to is to give them some! Below are some tips from the kids' view for helping increase positive interactions in the classroom. These strategies can be used at home with headstrong kids too!


Arbitrary rules of "because I said so," or "because it's my job to _____" only make us feel like we have even less power in the situation. Instead of "stop talking," tell us that other kids are having a hard time getting work done because we're talking. Kids' brains aren't wired to think outside of themselves yet. We don't always think about how our actions affect others. Sorry!


Notice I said "agree upon." Expecting kids to blindly follow your rules because it's the rules and because it's what you have to do at school is only going to make headstrong kids feel less powerful. Instead, sit down and negotiate the "terms." It makes me feel like I'm an important part of the team. Often, we kids do understand that rules are in place for a reason. The issue comes when we feel as though we had no role in helping come up with them. So include us! You teachers got to help write a contract for your job, right?!

- Write a contract to address expectations for all people involved
- How will we address disputes on behalf of both sides?
- Sign the contract (both parties)


As often as you can, let us pick the order we will do things or how we will do them. Kids like having control over their time and environments as much as adults do! Give us choices for free time; let us decide if we want to work in groups or work alone; let us choose how to show you what we've learned when you can. I've heard this is just good teaching because not all kids have the same interest and talents. Imagine if your boss came in and told you every day when and how you would do everything. Yuck!


Rules such as "be respectful" is SO vague. Plus, I guarantee you there will be times when I feel like I'm not being respectful by adults at school (teachers don't always respond appropriately 100% of the time, right!?) Instead, try rules like "We keep our hands and feet to ourselves," "We sit in our desks by the time the bell rings," or "We work quietly during work time," "We use a respectful tone of voice," etc. This is why PBIS schools break down their school-wide expectations into smaller, more objective expectations for each area in the school. Respect may look very different in the classroom compared to on the playground.


How can we possibly feel comfortable letting you have power over us when we have no idea what to expect from you? One day you let us do one thing, the next day you don't. If we don't know what to expect, we feel like we have to take things into our own hands to feel comfortable. Don't make us do that. Just do what you say you will.


How would you feel if your boss constantly told you about every little thing you did wrong? please don't do it to us either. It makes us feel like you're intentionally trying to "catch" us doing things wrong, which makes us want to prove to our classmates how unrealistic and ridiculous you are.


If we break the rules, don't talk and talk and talk at us. Tell us what's wrong in as few words as possible and move on with it. It drives us crazy when you sit there and nag at us. Seriously, we GET IT. We're not stupid. Deliver the consequence in the contract and STOP TALKING! The worst is when you say, "How many times do I have to tell you...." I mean, do you want us to answer, because we will. You're just making yourself look silly now.


Contrary to common belief, headstrong kids and those with ODD usually DO care what people think. So, making passive-aggressive comments to us in front of our classmates or informing everyone in a 2-mile radius how many points we earned on our daily chart when an adult comes to check us out will just make us trust you less. How can we trust you if you're going to use your power to embarrass us? If we violate the contract, tell us quietly and in private.


We like funny things too. And when you make light of a situation rather than using it to assert your dominance, it makes me feel better. So instead of, "How many times have I told you to stop running," try "Hey bud! The floors are wet and I don't want to have to pick up squished pieces of you off the floor. It'd be messy!" It puts the picture in my head of you picking up pieces of me on the floor, which is funny and puts the focus on YOU and the situation rather than on just on ME.


Here's a huge way to gain my respect: apologize when you're wrong. We know not everyone is perfect. But honestly, why do adults get to be "unquestioningly right" all the time and kids don't? When you make a mistake, own it and move on. It happens. We get it.


Above all, it boils down to making me feel like you're on my team. So with everything you do, think about you and I working together against the world. It's a little dramatic, but it might help you see a little what it feels like to be me sometimes.

One last point (from the headstrong adult): Defiant kids or those with ODD are not "destined" to be criminals as adults. We can't know which of our students are going to succeed. Defiant people have fought revolutions, marched for civil rights, started businesses, and molded the world we live in. If those before us simply accepted everything as it was, many of the rights and privileges we enjoy today would not be available to us. Be thankful for the defiant people in your life and don't write off your difficult kids; just figure out ways to harness their "power" for good!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pinterest Find :: Free Movie Clips

Clapper Board

Ever been in that moment when you've got a super visually-oriented or antsy group? (I know....NEVER, right?) I don't know about you, but I just don't have the time or memory to scale youtube or my own personal movie stash looking for a clip to demonstrate what I'm teaching.

Which is why I was very excited when I came across this movie clips website recently on Pinterest! You can sort by traditional movie topics such as editor, genre, actor, or my personal favorite....THEME!

From there, they have topics such as:

- Character- Aggression
- Grief
- Betrayal
- Compromise
- Distrust
- Equality
- Listening

and TONS more.

Now, I do have a disclaimer: not all clips are appropriate for all ages (obviously - this is Hollywood, people!), so make sure to preview anything you play for your students and/or obtain appropriate parent permission if necessary.

I've already used tons of clips and my students have loved them!

Hopefully this will help put a little spark in your lessons :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New(ish) Product :: Cause & Effect Lesson Pack

Screen Shot 2013-03-09 at 11.14.17 AM

My students often have a difficult time thinking about cause and effect - especially when related to their behavior, so I created these activities help them learn cause and effect using fun school-related situations and home and community events. It contains the following:

- What’s the Cause? Worksheet
- What’s the Effect? WorksheetScreen Shot 2013-01-20 at 11.29.49 AM
- 2 Cause and Effect Graphic OrganizersScreen Shot 2013-01-20 at 11.30.09 AM
- 36 Cause and Effect Question Cards with Decorative Card Backs (editable - also found in Social Skills Land Extension Packs). I use these for Jeopardy and other games/contests and the kids don't even notice they're "working."

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 11.32.13 AM

Files are presented in PDF format except for the editable cards, which are in Microsoft Word format.



Friday, March 8, 2013

Quote :: How Kids Learn Best

Young Boy Being Tutored by His Teacher
"Children learn best when they like their teacher and they think their teacher likes them."

- Gordon Neufeld

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pinterest Find :: Free Guided Journal Pages

Oh's not often I come across something I am THIS excited about! Christie Zimmer from Grace is Overrated made these amazing guided journal pages complete with hand-drawn borders and doodles, thought-provoking prompts, and inspirational quotes. She also has a ton of cute note cards, pocket-sized journal pages, and an Etsy Shop as well!

Pages are available in black and white, color, and with and without borders! And the best part?  You can download them for free here!


I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Happy Tuesday :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fun Freebie :: "Be Yourself" Classroom Collage


Awhile back, I saw a really cool blog post. She had created an awesome self-esteem decoration that I immediately wanted to borrow and use for the walls outside my hallway. So, I typed a whole bunch of different adjectives to describe students, cut them out, backed them with card stock, and laminated them with the awesome new laminator my husband got me for Christmas :)

I'm really happy with how it turned out. I've already received tons of compliments on it!

Screen Shot 2013-03-05 at 6.57.08 PM

So, I just went and posted all the words I used to make my collage. Just click any of the images in this post to pick them up!

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