7 Things You Can Do As An Inclusion Teacher

Ah, co-teaching. So magical at its best, so soul-destroying at its worst. I've had amazing partnerships with co-teachers and... not so amazing ones. But even when you get along with your co-teacher, a lack of planning time or a weird schedule (like 30 minutes twice a week... anyone?) can mean that you feel a bit useless. So what can you do rather than hover anxiously (and annoyingly) over the students you're providing minutes for? I have a few suggestions:

1. Pull a small group. This is the most obvious and most utilized solution to standing around doing nothing. Keep in mind that it doesn't always need to be students with IEPs, and that your group shouldn't become a special education class within a class. If you have a common planning time and a relationship with your co-teacher, you can set up formal groups for your subject, and you can even rotate through so you both see all students. If you're just "popping in" to provide services, try giving students the option to work with you, rather than mandating it. After students are released to work independently, try telling the whole class that students who feel like they need more help can join you on the rug or at a back table. 

2. Record on the anchor chart. The mini-lesson can be the hardest time to contribute, in this teacher's opinion! In a well-managed class, all the students may be quiet and attentive during the mini-lesson, which doesn't leave you much to do! You can team up with your co-teacher to create or add to the anchor chart as she leads the lesson, or vice versa.

3. Provide behavior support. Make sure you and your co-teacher are on the same page for your management system, and then help implement it! If students have any sort of incentive system, it can be easy for the gen ed teacher to forget to use it. As an additional teacher in the room, you can provide incentives and manage behavior data as needed.

4. Read aloud. Many classrooms have a more relaxed read aloud time (rather than a mini-lesson) at some point during the day. Offering to do the read-aloud may help engage students, since they're likely hearing their gen ed teacher's voice all day, and it can also give the gen ed teacher a chance to do 1:1 assessments or any other non-whole group task.

5. Assess. Speaking of assessment... having a co-teacher really helps cut down on instructional time wasted for assessment. Of course, as special ed teachers, we have plenty of our own assessing to do. Still, many schools require 1:1 assessments for general education students as well, especially in the primary grades. This is a huge amount of work for our general education co-teachers! Without a co-teacher, gen ed teachers might be forced to simply provide the other students with "busy work" as they spend hours on 1:1 testing. You can teach while your co-teacher assesses, the reverse, or you can alternate to cut down on the tedium of having students count to 120 as fast as they can (mClass, anyone?)

6. Record instructions. Last year, my co-teacher did an awesome job giving explicit, step-by-step instructions for each assignment. But many of our students are simply not auditory learners! We can help foster independence by recording the steps for a task up on the board in simple language. That way, students can refer back to the instructions on the board rather than having to ask for help.

7. Take over specific tasks. Some general education teachers may be unsure whether it's okay for you to be doing anything other than directly helping the students on your caseload. But having two teachers in the room can be a benefit to all students! By taking over certain tasks, you can help make the classroom run more efficiently, which is a benefit to ALL students. Some tasks I have "taken over" in a co-teaching setting include morning work, checking multiplication fact tests, attendance, lunch count, providing incentives, and running bathroom breaks. As a special education teacher, you're not an assistant, but it doesn't mean you can't share in general classroom duties. 

Happy co-teaching!

Should Your Classroom Have A Theme?

Every year as the back-to-school season approaches, teachers everywhere start to contemplate setting up their classrooms. Seeing beautiful, coordinated classrooms on Pinterest and Instagram can get even the least cutesy teacher wondering if they *need* a theme. So, does your classroom need a theme? The short answer is no. Here's the long answer:

And y'all, I am NOT anti-theme! I love a good theme (cacti or pineapples, anyone?), but if it's not your thing, don't do it-- especially if it's getting you stressed out before the school year has even begun.

So if any of your answers landed you in the "NOPE." category, let it go! Focus on making your classroom functional and student-centered, and the rest will fall into place.

9 Amazon Items For Your Cactus Classroom

It's no secret I'm a mega-cactus fan. When this trend hit, I was READY. I've got cactus leggings, framed cactus prints, plenty of real live cacti, and now a Cactus Classroom Room Decor Pack. But if printables aren't enough for you, check out some of these Amazon finds to cactify your classroom.
This post contains affiliate links.

1. Cactus Banner
2. Cactus Clothespins 
3. Cactus Pen Holder & Desktop Organizer 
4. Cactus Wall Hanging This would be perfect for a photoshoot or cool down corner. I LOVE the colors.
5. Cactus Throw Pillows
6. Cactus Lamp
7. Cactus-Shaped Pillow So cute for your classroom library.
8. Cactus Pencil Sharpener You can google ANYTHING + cactus and it probably exists. I am dying over this pencil sharpener.
9.Cactus Erasers Perfect for prizes or your desk (which is where mine reside).

Don't forget the complete Cactus Classroom Decor Pack to complete the look!

7 Special Education Classrooms You Need To See

Being a special educator can sometimes mean being a bit isolated. As a resource or self-contained teacher, you might have only have a few similar classrooms (or none!) in your building. Which is why the internet is AMAZING! Check out some of the best special education classrooms from around the blogosphere:

1. Michaela from Especially Education has the most rainbow-riffic classroom of all time!

2. Melissa's (of Autism Adventures) classroom is soooo organized!

3. Check out the adorable flexible seating Sped Adulting has going on in her classroom!

4. Alyssa of Simply Special Ed has a beautiful, bright, & streamlined classroom.

5. Check out Erin's (of You AUT-a Know) colorful & organized classroom!

A post shared by Erin Hagey (@youautaknow) on

6. Jennifer of Positively Learning has designed a beautifully simple resource classroom!  

7. And at the risk of of bragging, I like to think my resource classroom is pretty nice too!

A post shared by Sarah (@thedesignerteacher) on

You can see more of my classroom here! Which special education classroom inspires YOU? 

7 Healthy Lunches for Teachers

If the idea of making three healthy meals a day feels near impossible, you might want to try meal prepping! Taking an hour or two on Sunday to meal prep ensures that you have healthy lunches all week without any additional stress. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Sweet Potato Wraps with Pesto and Caramelized Onions
This recipe makes 8 wraps, which is great if you're prepping for a spouse too, or means you can throw a few in the freezer for later! 

2. Black Bean Bowls with Confetti Slaw
These are soooo good! When prepping for lunches, I keep the beans and everything else separate so that I can heat up the beans separately.

I hate touching raw meat, so I tend to buy pre-cooked chicken or throw some tofu in instead!

This is my very favorite salad! I switch out the "facon" for bacon, because #bacon, and I normally skip making my own dressing.

I ate so many of these last year! If you run out of pitas (#pitaproblems), you can always throw everything on top of greens for an equally tasty salad.

I think I'm just bad at ordering, but I actually like this lo mein better than any I get as take-out. You can eat this as lunch or dinner... so tasty!

Guess who skips the whole making-your-own-falafel thing and just buys frozen falafel from Trader Joe's? If you guessed me, you are correct.

A healthy and filling lunch can help you make it through those long afternoons without getting too hangry! You can find 5 more healthy recipes here.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset in Your Students

Growth mindset is everywhere in the education world right now, but that doesn't mean it's just a fad. Growth mindset is the idea developed by Carol Dweck that those with the belief that talent and intelligence are malleable, rather than fixed, perform better in school and in life. If we can teach our students that effort and perseverance matter more than inherent intelligence, we will have done a powerful thing. There are many ways to cultivate a growth mindset in your students, from modifying the way you praise your students to modeling it yourself! Here are a few ways you can get started:

Introducing growth vs. fixed mindset is a great lesson for the beginning of the year! Start by explaining that people with growth mindsets know that their brains are always getting smarter. They know that mistakes are simply an opportunity to learn, and that challenges will make their brain smarter. Explain that students can cultivate a growth mindset in themselves simply by changing their words! Create an anchor chart of words and thoughts to encourage a growth mindset.

Another great way to introduce growth mindset at the beginning of the year is to have students set "growth goals" for themselves. My Growth Goals Bulletin Board Kit makes a perfect first week of school activity, as well as an adorable, but meaningful, bulletin board display. 

While it's great to dedicate a whole lesson to growth mindset at the beginning of the year, it can also be helpful to have reminders posted throughout the classroom. My cactus-themed Growth Mindset Posters are perfect if you're looking to print and go, but you could also have students work together to create posters themselves.

Help students to reflect on their use of growth mindset by periodically coming together as a class to discuss challenges, mistakes, and growth. You can also use my Growth Mindset Writing Prompts as morning work or for journals to encourage reflection.

We can help our students develop a growth mindset by praising them for hard work, overcoming obstacles, and learning from mistakes. Avoid praising students for inherent intelligence or talent, instead noting their perseverance in the face of obstacles. In addition to verbal praise, you can also reinforce a growth mindset with these Growth Mindset "Brag Tags." If you don't currently use these incentive tags in your classroom, you can learn more about them here.

One of the most powerful ways to encourage a growth mindset is to model it yourself! When you make a mistake, talk about what happened and what you can learn from it. If the class is struggling with something, talk about how you, as a teacher, need to consider other strategies rather than give up. Here's hoping for a year of growth for you and your students!

Creating a Summer Schedule as a Teacher

The single greatest perk of being a teacher is undoubtedly summer. After 10 months of unceasing dedication, we absolutely deserve a break. Though as we all know, plenty of professional development, planning, and prepping goes on too! As delightful as it is to wake up at 10:00 and stay in one's pajamas all day, some of us teachers actually struggle a bit without structure. After all, we're used to not just having a start and end time to our work day, but having our day divided up into 15-minute segments (5 minute segments if you teach kinder!). I don't know about you, but on an average school day, I know exactly what's going on at 8:00, 8:15, 8:30, 8:45... and so on... until 3:00. During the school year one free hour or one free day was unbelievably precious! "Just think what I could do with an extra prep period or a day off!" we would think to ourselves. And now we have whole hours and days! 

But you know what? I've finally resigned myself to the fact that I thrive on a schedule. With a schedule, I remember to do things like eat, and exercise, and you know, leave the house. 

So without further ado... a blank summer schedule for you to fill out!

I'm not trying to run myself ragged here... I have plenty of chill time built in. But if you're like me, it can be really helpful to have a wake up time, meal times, and exercise scheduled! So go ahead and put together a daily schedule for yourself using my editable template
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